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Making Negative Advertising Work to Your Advantage

Submitted by admin on Thu, 02/11/2010 - 09:45

Aug. 22, 2008

Conventional advertising wisdom says negative ads don't work, however businesses like Apple have proved that negative advertising is a valuable and profitable method.

Unless you're on the political campaign trail, negative ads don't work-at least, that's what conventional advertising wisdom says. And it's what businesses have proclaimed until a very successful ad campaign from Apple came along, stole Microsoft's thunder, and kept it, taunting everyone too old and too uncool to own a Mac along the way.

Negative advertising now popularly refers to a comparative method of advertising, whereby a business can promote itself by pointing out negative aspects of its competition. Promotion through competitor comparison is almost a foregone conclusion in an age of hyper-speed online information portals, which give consumers the ability to easily synthesize and compare vendor information. Gone are the days of ruining brand reputation through the use of negative ads. So how do you make negative advertising work for you?

  1. First, consider the nature of successful ads, such as the Mac ads. Their success lies in the fact that they do not turn the opposition into a villain they can directly attack, but rather, into a buffoon, of whom they can make fun and ridicule. Capitalizing on the success of mock news shows like The Soup, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, negative advertisers are finding satirical humor to be not only hip, but lucrative as well.

  2. Second, do not hesitate to go beyond print and T.V. ads and advertise online. The Internet has a wealth of product and service information which consumers can compare in a matter of seconds, and which can work to your advantage.

    When marketing and advertising online, frame the information for potential consumers. Explain the information they are seeing in terms that would boost your brand reputation. Openly disapprove of other competitor's policies, if applicable. Distinguishing your brand from others and advertising accordingly is quite easy to do online.

  3. Third, don't forget to involve the consumers as often as possible in your online advertising efforts. You'll find that consumers will do most of the work for you in terms of negative advertising online. For instance, a 2006 contest to create a new ad for GM on the show The Apprentice spawned many negative video ads mocking GM, which were circulated on YouTube and other web pages.

    But before you decide to initiate any such contests, do your homework. Don't hit consumers with a barrage of negative information. Make your ads count. And always work to get young and/or web-savvy consumers on your side.

  4. Last, don't be afraid of being a target. Accept negative advertising pointed toward your brand name, and roll with it. Nothing is more endearing than one's ability to laugh at oneself. In the face of competition, come out with your own ad, promoting your brand as, in the words of Kanye West, "taller, better, faster, stronger."


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Jennifer Silva
Zilker Ventures, LLC
(512) 448-9031

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