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The most distinctive feature of contemporary political campaign advertisements is the negativity of their content and tone. Political advertisers frequently engage in so-called "comparative" advertising in which the opposing candidate’s program and performance are criticized and even ridiculed. Highlighting the opponent’s liabilities and weaknesses usually takes precedence over identifying the sponsor’s program and strengths. In the most comprehensive tracking of campaign advertising to date, scholars at the Annenberg School of Communication have found that such "negative" advertising makes up approximately one-third of all campaign ads used in presidential campaigns (Jamieson et al., 1998). The level of negativity is actually significantly greater when one considers frequency-weighted indicators of content (Prior, 1999). In 1996, for instance, while fewer than one-half of the ads produced by the major candidates featured negative appeals, these appeals accounted for some seventy percent of the candidates’ ad buys (Goldstein, 1998). While we do not have comparable data for any commercial advertising campaign, the "comparative" element is unlikely to be so prominent; when compared with commercial ads, political ads are much more negative in content.

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This is an illustrated essay that critiques how creative practitioners have addressed the issue of ageing through socially engaged visual communication practice. It describes my personal interest in ageing and explores the social, cultural and political contexts of the subject. Furthermore, my recent work concerned with ageing is discussed and compared and contrasted with examples of social engaged works by dance makers Lloyd Newson and Wendy Houstoun, and photographer Penny Klepuszewska.

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The second phase of the analysis was directed at specific product and political ads. We asked subjects to indicate their feelings about the American Airlines and Advil ads included in the presentation, as well as the political ad. Statistical analysis of this measure is restricted to subjects in the treatment conditions since the control group was not exposed to the political ad. We focus on differences in subjects’ affective responses in relation to the number of political ads seen (1 or 2), the type of political ad (from a presidential campaign or initiative campaign), the candidate sponsoring the presidential ad (Clinton or Dole), and the tone of the ad (positive or negative).