Election Campaign Ads Are Lies Without Context

Election season makes me want to shake all the big dreamer campaign people and yell, “You give marketing a bad name!” Everyone gets bombarded with ads on TV that are just SO bad. Viewers are subjected to horrific photos, “he said, she said” remarks, and some kind of Jaws-like doom music in the background.

Come on.

Even when there’s a good ad, there’s still a lot of politicking going on. One Obama ad about job creation had a nice, clean graph illustration, which is more visually appealing than most political ads. I was so excited because this ad looked so nice.

The stats are misleading, though.

My Analysis: The ad started running in February 2012.

  • You see deep spikes in jobs lost during the last year of the Bush administration … not counting any jobs created or lost during the entire eight years he was in office.
  • The creators are attributing Obama with the creation of 3.7 million jobs while he was in office. The Bureau of Labor Statistics pulls lots of data about jobs, but when we see jobs created, we can’t forget jobs lost, too. I found calculations online that noted the net job creation under Bush was 1.1 million jobs, and Obama actually has a net loss of 1.8 million jobs (end of 2011).

This is a reminder that employment data is touchy because a lot of reports only include information on those collecting unemployment. If you don’t collect anymore, does your lack of a job not count anymore?

Marketing isn’t an invitation to stretch the truth or lie (no matter how many companies have done it in the past or still do). Campaigns shouldn’t think they can either. If the American people are too simple to do their own research and need these ads to help educate themselves, why can’t they be accurate?

If you are interested in just how accurate the campaign messages are, Glenn Kessler has a great list of articles fact-checking claims made by politicians. At the end of the day, it comes down to context. No matter which side you vote for, understand that an issue is never simple enough for a 15-second spot.