The Problem With Political Attack Ads

The Problem With Political Attack Ads
Posted on April 15, 2013 | James O'Grady | Written on March 9, 2011
Letter type:


Globe & Mail

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

This letter-to-the-editor was written in response to a column by Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe & Mail about attack ads in politics. Simpson's column first appeared in the Globe & Mail on March 9, 2011. As you will see below, I disagree with his assessment that attack ads work. Unfortunately, this letter was never published.

With all due respect to Jeffrey Simpson, I have to disagree with his assertion that 'Attack Ads' won't disappear because they work.' I would argue eventhough they may work in some instances, that doesn't mean they should be permitted.

Attack ads emphasize the 'negative', appealing to the worst aspects of human nature. They prey on human weaknesses like fear, prejudice, hate and ignorance.

Attack ads target the weakest and most vulnerable in our society. People who are susceptible to being mislead and manipulated to vote 'against' something rather than 'for' something they believe in. Often against their own best interests.

Candidates and political parties who use attack ads usually do so because they have nothing of value to say. This tactic is used most often by marketers who lack creativity and imagination. People who have no moral misgivings about fleecing others, like a conman.

In the 2007 Ontario provincial election, the Green Party of Ontario proved it was possible to be both positive and critical at the same time. We achieved it by using humour, through a series of YouTube videos (, to point out the flaws in our opponents' arguments.

I believe attack ads only serve to distract people from the real issues. They serve no legitimate purpose and do not contribute in any positive way to the national discussion on public policy.

As a professional marketer I believe the following changes need to be made to the rules governing election advertising:

  1. Political ads should conform to Advertising Standards Canada rules (
  2. Political ads should not be permitted to run outside of an election period. Ie. Only after the writ drops

Only with these changes can Canadians have an honest discussion about the issues that concern us most.

James O'Grady
Former Director of Communications Green Party of Ontario
2007 Ontario Provincial Election

About The Author

James OGrady's picture

I am the founder of Unpublished Media--A social media entrepreneur, communications professional, part-time school teacher and community leader living in Nepean, Ontario. I am also a hockey goaltender, political hack... More