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(Noted researcher Larry Rosin gave an excellent presentation at PD GRAD SCHOOL entitled Cutthroat Techniques From Politicians... Here is a letter I sent Larry afterward.)

A couple of thoughts that probably have occurred to you but are in my head, in response to your presentation.

*I suspect negative ads have more potential in politics than in radio (not to say there's no potential in radio) because:

1. Many political votes are cast out of fear, not out of preference. You might fear electing some guy who will blow up the world (or, worse, make it harder for God-fearing citizens to arms themselves with automatic weapons) and therefore vote AGAINST him. But you're a bit less likely to listen to The Mix simply because you're afraid The Edge might play Barry Manilow when your defenses are down.

2. This is related to the above: Forgetting the "fear" factor for the moment, many votes are cast against candidates the voter dislikes for any manner of reason (or non-reason): You don't like Candidate A's name, hairstyle, gender, spouse, or friends? Then vote for Candidate B (whoever that happens to be).

*I think you overlooked (or, more likely, didn't have time to refer to) one factor that often IS different between a candidate attacking an opponent and a radio station attacking another station:

The conventional radio wisdom does, indeed, hold that if another station attacks you it often is foolish to respond ON-AIR...IF your audience is much larger than theirs. If they have a tiny audience and are attacking you solely on their own airwaves (not in print, tv or outdoor), very few people will ever be aware of their message...unless you repeat and respond to it.

BUT....In a political campaign, every candidate theoretically has access (open, if not equal) to the same audience -- i.e., the pool of voters. A negative campaign will be on tv, in print, and/or on radio. Every candidate potentially (limited only by funding) reach virtually very registered voter. A negative campaign that is NOT responded to therefore becomes one in each only one side is heard.

If Politician A takes out ads saying, "My opponent, Politician B, is a necrophiliac" -- and if the advertising budget is large enough to support it -- then most voters might hear it. But if Station A, which is #46 in the market, goes on-air and says Station B (#1 in the market) plays terrible music, that message will reach only a very small, sharply limited audience.

If you'd like, I can make the above response even more verbose.

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