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Timing of disclosures and why you might want to open with “I approve this message.”

If you bothered to read the publisher introduction letter above, you may (or may not) have noted that there’s a bit of a disclaimer. In essence, it was the political consultant version of that 1984 Vicks 44 “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV” ad (see it HERE).

That line became a popular catch phrase and was often parodied (“I’m not a [insert joke here], but I play one on TV”)… yet despite being openly mocked, it was successful enough for Vicks that they brought the campaign back two years later (recast after it turned out the original actor may not have been a doctor, but he was most definitely a tax evader).

Nonetheless, what makes the ad interesting is that consumers seemed to largely accept the opening disclaimer and moved on to the substance of the ad.

This next paragraph is sponsored by Ted Nugent.

A recent experiment by Margaret C. Campbell, Gina S. Mohr, and Peeter W.J. Verlegh shows that placing disclosure of sponsorships “i.e. paid for by” in the beginning has no statistical affect on brand attitudes, but putting it at the end has a statistically significant negative effect.

The authors hypothesize that a pre-disclosure allows the audience to feel armed or protected by the knowledge – whereas a post-disclosure forces the audience to go back and rethink the content they just heard in light of the disclosure.

In essence, you’ve already evaluated the paragraph above relative to the sponsorship of Ted Nugent (which is, of course, not true)… and assessed its veracity. However, if I had given you the paragraph and afterwards said it’s paid for by Ted Nugent, you’d go back and reassess the paragraph more negatively in light of this new information. (And not just because it’s Ted Nugent.)

PsyPology’s analysis:

Political consultants (and particularly, TV writers) face a similar choice when trying to decide how and when to incorporate the Federally mandated disclaimer, “I’m Joe Blow and I approve this message” into their ads.

Of course, there are some candidate ads in which the question is moot:  If the ad is about your candidate, and/or your candidate stars in the ad, then the “I approve this message” disclosure isn’t going to surprise the audience.  Putting at the end saves time too.

But in a negative ad, or one that doesn’t star your candidate but has emotional resonance, it would seem that the conclusions of the research above could be very applicable.  In those cases, it would seem to make sense to put the disclosure at the top and not create interference with the emotional impact of the ads contents.

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About the Author

Brian Franklin
Brian Franklin
PsyPology™ Founder and Editor

Brian Franklin is President of Impact Politics and founder/editor of PsyPology™ - political consulting's first blog providing psychology intel specifically for campaign operatives. Brian has provided marketing strategy, creative direction, language development, and writing services to over a hundred political campaigns, organizations, agencies, and corporations. He has led Impact Politics' work for numerous federal, state, county candidate, ballot initiative, public advocacy, and non-profit campaigns, as well as ad development and online media strategy for  international advocacy campaigns.

Brian is a Board Member of the American the American Association of Political Consultants and co-Chair of their Technology Committee. He is the author of a recent feature article in Campaigns and Elections magazine, “The Slow Boom of Campaign Technology.” In addition to his leadership role in the American Association of Political Consultants, Brian is also a member of the International Association of Political Consultants, Society for Consumer Psychology, Behavioral Science and Policy Association, and the International Society of Political Psychology.

Brian's work has earned prestigious national awards, such as the Pollie Awards for Best Overall Internet Campaign, Best Overall Campaign Use of Negative Contrast, Best Use of Facebook Advertising, Best Use of Search Engine Advertising, Best Use of Humor in an Online Ad, Best Online Ads, and more. Brian has also won a Campaigns and Elections Reed Award for Best Online Targeting.M/div>