Trump explained by an ad guy: Ad Hominem

Donald Trump is famous for using the Ad Hominem attacks like “Lyin’ Ted”, “Crooked Hillary” and “Little Marco” on his opponents rather than the logical take down. Why does he do it? Simple: people don’t care about facts in marketing, advertising and politics (and really, in most things).

For example: I don’t care what chemical the fibers are in my Nike shoes. I don’t care how many lines of code are used in my smart phone’s operating system. And I don’t care about the engineering of the car I just drove to the store. Facts are a snooze fest. Even more snoozy is when people argue about them. In one ear and out the other.

So what do people really care about? Safety, sex and identity. Just about everything reduces down to one of those things. Don’t believe? Let’s give it a try.

“Choosey Mothers choose Jiff” and “Relax it’s FedEx” are good examples of taglines that reduce to identity plus safety and safety respectively. But some are more sophisticated, Just Do It may sound like and uplifting encouraging slogan but it plays into identity, to be against it you would have to be a lazy slob. You have to be for Nike or you might be outcast by your peers. Oh, and just about any mass market beer spot is about sex.

In advertising, we tend to shy away from direct attacks on the competition. No, not because we’re too principled. If it worked as well as it does in politics we’d be all for it. Politics is a zero sum game won with just over half the pie. Advertising and business is only won with a legal monopoly which Microsoft almost had and just about every regional energy company has in their respective markets. Every day is a battle for survival and percentage points won or lost.

A mature consumer goods market like toilet paper is quite different than politics. What if Georgia Pacific and P&G decided they were going to go to war like the Donald and “Little Marco”? It would probably play out quite differently with Kimberly Clark and their Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle brands being the winner in the end. ROI on such an endeavor would certainly be nil for the warring brands.

So why does all this negativity seem to have worked as well as it has for Trump? Again, it’s a zero sum game. All he has to do is increase his percentages and he can do that by reducing the other candidates piece of the pie. Reduced voter turn out isn’t a problem if the voters would have voted for the opponent. Imagine if he or Hillary can make the other guy/gal look so bad you wouldn’t want to identify with them by supporting them, voting for them or even putting their sign in your yard. This is where we are now. A spiral to the bottom. With each team in the end saying in effect, the other guys is worse so don’t vote for them.

Will it change? Not likely without something really unexpected or really horrible (like 911 again) happening.

Disclaimer: I’m a creative director using Trump to help explain advertising principals. I don’t support either of the two big-party candidates and will be voting 3rd party.

Posted on: August 11, 2016, by :