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Forethought warns Aussie advertisers of negative impacts of election ads

Marketing analytics and strategy advisory firm Forethought has warned Australian advertisers of the brand-safety risks of advertising during the weeks leading up to the 2022 Federal Election on the 21st of May.

In a statement from its executive chairman Ken Roberts, Forethought said it is now “time for brands that are concerned for the efficacy of their advertising to go into communication hibernation until post the election” to minimise the chances of their ads being negatively impacted by the hangover sentiments from political advertising.

The warning stems from research conducted by Forethought in partnership with J. Walter Thompson NYC during the 2016 US election, where the firms measured the impact on the efficacy of neighbouring ads when the brand ad followed a spot for presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

The research tested 12 different political ads for their effect on brand ads. While the researchers had hypothesised only the attack spots (those denigrating the opponent) would be damaging to the following spot, all political ads were revealed to significantly detract from the following brand ads’ performance. This finding held true regardless of whether the person was a Democrat or Republican voter even when assessing their own party’s advertising.

The research concluded the remaining negative emotion elicited by the preceding political ads, significantly damaged the performance of the brands ads, and thus, wasted advertising investment.

Specifically, the project revealed brand ads running directly after a political ad were perceived as 32% less relevant, 29% less entertaining and 27% less appealing. There were also direct impacts to the brand itself. Brands with spots following political ads had their reputation, product quality and value rated lower by viewers.

Current customers who viewed these ad spots also experienced a 26% decline in purchase intent.

Though these impacts could be mitigated by ensuring ads were not placed immediately after political advertisements, programmatic media buying could make this difficult.

The findings were also found to be applicable in the context of brand spots intentionally elicited unresolved negative emotions, such as anxiety, anger and sadness.

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