Gini Dietrich

Spin Sucks…Even in Political Ads

By: Gini Dietrich | September 10, 2012 | 

This is not a political post. Let me repeat: This is not a political post.

Before I begin, allow me to remind everyone the vision of this blog is to change the perception of the PR industry by highlighting both the good and the bad.

The bad, unfortunately, happens a lot in politics, so we can’t avoid talking about them. But we’re going to look at this from a bi-partisan perspective.

Especially right now. My goodness. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older or if this year seems especially polarizing, but it’s kind of astounding to me how both sides are behaving.


Last Thursday, the GOP released an ad featuring a disillusioned Obama supporter. In the ad, she expresses her disappointment and frustration with POTUS.

Which is all fine and dandy.


The “disillusioned Obama supporter” is actually a Republican National Committee staffer. She’s worked in Republican politics since before 2008, when Obama was elected. So it’s unlikely she ever voted for him, let alone became disillusioned after she did.

A RNC spokesperson told Talking Points Memo:

It’s a lighthearted ad to show how millions of Americans feel about President Obama — he’s not the person we thought he was and it’s time to break up with him. But let’s be clear, it is an ad.

Unfortunately, anyone watching the ad doesn’t know it features a RNC staffer pretending to be someone she’s not.


There is nowhere more rich with political baloney than the state of Illinois.

I mean, we have what? Four governors who have gone to prison?

A man running for Congress in the Champaign area (where the University of Illinois has its campus) is being blasted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for working with George Ryan (the third governor who went to prison…and is still there).

According to Capitol Fax, there are at least four misleading – or completely untrue – statements in the ad, including being “right in the middle” of Ryan’s corruption, even though he was right out of college when it all went down and wasn’t anything more than an entry-level staffer.

The Lessons

While I’d love to say the lesson is, “Don’t believe everything you see on TV,” I think there is more to do this.

The other side is always accused of lying and fudging the truth in order to get ahead, but it’s not just the side that you don’t believe in. Both sides are acting in poor taste, lying, cheating, and being completely and utterly dishonest.

A lot of us are content creators. Maybe we’re copywriters or technical writers or bloggers or authors. Whatever it is, we create content that helps our organizations gain credibility and build leadership in areas we haven’t been able to compete in the past.

We are responsible for gaining someone’s attention in the blink of an eye … and trying to keep it for more than 30 seconds. And that sometimes means being controversial or extraordinarily funny or having a gimmick that works.

But, under no circumstances, does that include lying or stretching the truth.

We can do better than this. Let’s show our politicans there is a way to win and be honest. It has to start somewhere, otherwise it continues to get worse and worse and our country becomes even more polarized.

Let’s do better than this.

After all, Spin Sucks.

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About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • This ties in nicely with today’s Marketoonist – 

  • We just have to stop working on making others look bad and start working on being good ourselves.
    We bother too much about how wrong the other one is. That is just wrong ourselves … politics, job, life, everything. 

    •  @Hajra  I totally agree. It makes me nuts. My parents raised us to believe in hard work and doing the right things. I fully realize it may take me longer to “win” that way, but I can sleep at night.

  • It’s because you’re getting older. But I agree.

    • @KenMueller you stopped her in her tracks with that one!

    •  @KenMueller The best part? You’ll always be older than me.

      •  @ginidietrich no way. I’m in reverse now.

        •  @KenMueller Funny! Me too.

        •  @ginidietrich No, you’re just acting more childish.

  • patrickreyes

    Frustrates me to no end.  On both sides, I wish they would focus on the good they could do if elected…what they would do to end poverty, improve the economy, etc. rather than try and discredit the opposition.  Someone else telling me how bad someone or something isn’t going to make me change my mind.  We vote for a reason and I’d rather vote based on what candidates do or have done rather than what they say.
    Unfortunately, it’s still politics and I still have a hard time trusting candidates I support.

    • @patrickreyes it’s ok, Patrick, you can help me change the climate in 2020!

    •  @patrickreyes Mr. D and I have this conversation a lot. I always question why one politician can’t start the trend of telling the truth and insisting his/her opponent do the same. He think that’s very naive of me.

      • patrickreyes

         @ginidietrich I don’t think it’s naive at all.  I’d love for a candidate to try it.  In the political ad industry, it could be thought of as revolutionary much like when Obama truly became the first “social POTUS.”

  • It’s all balgerdash… And that’s why we’re going to start a new group for those that are fed up with Republican and Democrat crap. It’s going to be called the American Party, because that’s what it’s supposed to be about, right? Sorry, that was technically political, I’ll get off my soapbox now 😉

    • @SociallyGenius Will that party tell the truth?

      • @ginidietrich well of course
        .. We wouldn’t be any different if we didn’t

  • You would like to think you can vote the bums out of office, but who is going to replace them? The most capable leaders don’t want any part of it.
    I still think our political system is the best option, but until we can have a collaborative leader who can bridge the gap and pull the parties together, the polarization will continue. 
    In fact, I would be more apt to vote for someone who used that as their platform, the way to bring the parties together, than all this finger pointing. 
    I would like to think the ‘majority’ in America are moderates, somewhere in the middle; neither too far left or right. It’s time for them to stand up and be accounted for……..but I heard that will be a ‘cold’ day before that ever happens………..

    •  @bdorman264 I think we should start by insisting our politicians tell the freaking truth. Why is that so hard?

      •  @ginidietrich  @bdorman264 What I hate, and what I always hear, not from the politicians, but their supporters, is: “Well, it’s a campaign, and they all do it. No one expects them to tell the truth in a campaign.”

        •  @KenMueller  @bdorman264 Yeah…it really, really sucks. I’d love to someone take the lead and insist on telling the truth, on being ethical, and running on a platform vs. what the other person has done wrong.

        •  @ginidietrich  @KenMueller  @bdorman264 well Bill’s state elected a guy who stole $1b from the US taxpayers, destroyed a company (it was bailed out), and after getting into office has tried giving handouts left and right to his healthcare peers LOL Illinois looks good Gini!
          One state you can not buy an office is california. Meg Whitman tried. Michael Huffington tried. Carly Fiorina tried. Arnold kind of did but with other people’s money.

        •  @HowieG  @ginidietrich  @KenMueller Hey, don’t be picking on Skeletor……….

        •  @ginidietrich  @KenMueller What a novel idea……….

      •  @ginidietrich  @bdorman264 Pull the money out and things will change. Impact that bottom line.
        Part of the reason why the TSA is a mess and healthcare is a pain is because our “leaders” don’t have the same struggles with it as we do.
        Senators aren’t flying coach and they aren’t worried about pre-existing conditions. They don’t wonder whether they need to get to the airport two hours in advance.
        So they have less incentive to try to help fix things.

      • rdopping

         @ginidietrich  @bdorman264 They need to hire Spin Sucks to reverse the spin because it sucks.

    •  @bdorman264 There is a huge leadership gap throughout the developed world right now.  It’s not just politics – it’s business, religion, and everything.  There are great leaders out there, I’m sure – or at least potential ones ready to be made.  We all have to insist on better before we will get the leadership we all so desperately need.
      (Ginny is certainly doing her part!)

  • JamesBSchultz

    Over time, I’ve grown weary of politics and campaigns. Why do we think the West Point Honor Code (A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do) is quaint for today’s fast paced political world? What would happen if all political parties had some part of the code in their platform? We can’t control or change other people’s behavior. All we can do is to try and always do the right thing regardless of personal impact.

    •  @JamesBSchultz sadly even the military higher ups are similarly corrupt. There is no code in the US for ethics. I remember reading how John McCain worked hard to leave our POWs in Vietnam after he got into politics to move on even against full proof other POWs were still there in the late 70’s. No one has honor. It really sucks.

      • JamesBSchultz

        No one has honor? I’m naïve and I do believe many people have principles. Well, maybe not politicians. My son is a cadet at West Point and I see most demonstrate the honor code on a daily basis. For them it is actions not just words. There are some unbelievable stories that never make the press! Unfortunately, power does corrupt… and more the reason to stop the spin. For every John McCain, you have a Jim Stockdale and the Stockdale Paradox. 

    •  @JamesBSchultz You’re right – the only person we can control is ourselves. I’d love it people began to question things they see and read, if only to make it harder for the spin to exist.

  • The Washington Post has the fact checker that gives out Pinocchio noses. This goes to the heart of marketing though. No one trusts marketers. They are trusted less than sales people and used car salespeople. But why do marketers lie? (and yes political campaigns are marketing). Because people are SUCKERS! And it is their fault. They send money to rich televangelists saying God orders them to do so. They take religious stances because someone said so even against cold hard facts. They buy products they do not need. They get swindled left and right. So if you knew you could succeed by lying you do it. Not everyone does. Many have ethics. But people lie all the time. This country was built on lying and deceit going back to buying manhattan. Going back to people escaping religious persecution coming here only to become religious persecutors. We honor and glorify robbers, swindlers, cheaters, mafia, gangsters, thieves.
    So we get what we deserve.

    •  @HowieG Whew, just don’t be dragging insurance sales people into this sordid mess…………….
      You speak the truth……… always…………but then again, you are smart like that…..

    •  @HowieG This reminds me of something I just read. Dang. What was it. Argh! Something about how people have always lied – it’s how Adam and Eve started – so why do we expect people to stop doing it. Shoot. Where was it?

      •  @ginidietrich After I posted my rant I thought about it and decided most of us are pretty up and up even if so many of us are suckers. It is because most of us do not lie and inherently trust others. It is that 20% who take advantage of our trust and of that 20% I think most go into politics. LOL

  • Matt_Cerms

    Great post, Gini! I definitely get uncomfortable when I see stuff like this. It seems like every day you can find something like this in the political world. Frustrating, to say the least. Does Kelly know about this post? Is he going to be the next guest blogger on Spin Sucks? Ha-ha, hope all is well!

    •  @Matt_Cerms LOL! I’m so sure this is the post that got you to comment! Don’t tell Brad! I don’t think Kelly has seen this yet. If he has, he’s just letting me be me because he hasn’t said anything. I already ripped the GOP ad apart in discussion with him this past weekend. 

      • Matt_Cerms

         @ginidietrich Ha-ha! Well, this is the post that sums up the title of your site the best. Love it.

  • In Louisiana we know from crooked politics and yeah, spin sucks. Even though so-called fact checking sucks b/c even that is biased and slanted, twisting the lies, damn lies and statistics every which way. All we can do is try to be better about what we create – and smarter about what we read and watch and share. FWIW.

    •  @3HatsComm That last part is exactly the problem….we’ve forgotten we all need to think critically. 

  • I’m hardly one to play apologist for any political candidate, but politics has always been a dirty, deceitful game that has only worsened over the years. There was a time when I considered a career in that world, but soon thought better of it. 
    The result? Political discourse has been reduced to sound bites and vilifying those who hold alternate viewpoints to gross caricatures. It deeply saddens me that it’s gotten so bad.  Sigh. 

    •  @jasonkonopinski I know, I know. But it certainly doesn’t make it right. I feel like Obama tried, in 2008, to play a fair game and not attack the other guy. But he’s just as bad this year. It makes my head hurt.

      •  @ginidietrich Indeed. It’s frustrating for those who legitimately want to have a dialogue on serious issues without being lumped into this pile or that. The system is deeply flawed because it ultimately plays to our baser natures, and that’s not helping. 

  • belllindsay

    BOOM!!! Brilliantly said!!

  • PerfectDisk

    @ginidietrich Awesome! Thank you….

  • johnny2004

    @ginidietrich Politics is the same all over the world.Your article applies “EXACTLY” to our recently-past National Elections. Shameful…

  • rhastings1202

    @ginidietrich Well said, Ginny! Amazing that so much of this still goes on.

    • ginidietrich

      @rhastings1202 It kind of hurts me. It’s so hard to not be disgusted by all of it

      • rhastings1202

        @ginidietrich so true. Incredible that so many don’t fear the total loss of trust when they get caught. #mindboggling

  • AmyEtheridge

    make content creation about truth & transparency, not lies and spin MT .@SpinSucks

  • That’s just plain dumb. They couldn’t take a couple hours and find a real disillusioned person? I’m sure there’s plenty out there. Why put yourself in a position to be called a liar? It’s either stupidity or laziness. 

    •  @EugeneFarber Right?!? That’s EXACTLY what I said!

  • MichaelEHoward

    @meghan5580 @spinsucks I DO like it as it pertains to my Washing Machine! 🙂

    • meghan5580

      @MichaelEHoward haha yes that’s true!

  • Hey Gini, you’ve just described politicians to a “T”… ” Poor taste, lying, cheating, and being completely and utterly dishonest.”
    And that’s not going to change – it just keeps getting worse because they have to keep their previous lies afloat…
    Just sayin.

    •  @Mark_Harai And yet we keep electing them.

      •  @ginidietrich Yeppers, pretty ironic, isn’t it?
        I don’t know what its going to take to fix things; but we certainly have a monumental amount of problems that need solving and I don’t see either party solving anything. 
        There’s not much positive that can come out of the discord and arguing that’s going on and this broken system will not be able to fix it.
        Its a shame how far our country has fallen. 
        But, the people will rise again… Its the people, not government, that will lead us into a brighter future.
        Nuff said, I don’t do politics 😮

  • We’re always looking for an angle, an edge, a hook. It’s like everyone (all us bloggers, writers, companies, politicians, speakers, etc.) are all on the same stage elbowing each other to get to the front of the stage to be seen and heard.
    The pressure is immense. What do we say? What do we do? Do we dance, yell, do flips? How do we get people to see us? Attention is so hard to come by especially if we have a short term view. 
    It’s this sense of immediacy and speed that gets us in so much trouble. Hey, the other guy lied, I gotta come back with a better lie now! (so, here’s another elbow to the face.) That’s what turns so many of us off to politicians, corporations, heck, to marketing in general. What’s the #@!#$!! rush?
    Yeah, let’s do better. Spin DOES suck.

    •  @Carmelo Wow. Where you at the Bears game yesterday, sitting behind jeanniecw and me? We were having this exact conversation. It’s like whoever has the biggest gimmick gets the air time (or stage time). And it’s really ridiculous. What happened to people’s critical thinking skills?

      •  @ginidietrich  jeanniecw LOL… it was a great game for the Bears. I’m not going to divulge what ELSE I heard you talking about! 😉

        •  @Carmelo  You probably heard my potty mouth that comes out during football games.

        •  @Carmelo  @ginidietrich Ruh roh. How much are you looking for? When Gini and I start talking…stuff is said. 😉

        •  @ginidietrich @jeanniecw Choice words too, well placed. You contributed directly to at least two of the Bears touchdowns, Gini. 

        •  @Carmelo  Yeah! I should get paid for that!

  • How profoundly disappointing, regardless of the “industry” it occurred in. How can anyone behind this kind of dishonesty be proud of their work? Call me old fashioned, I believe in hard work, honesty and creativity. Yes, communications (advertising, PR, politics, etc.) is a really tough field, but if you can’t handle the heat then get out of the kitchen — please, for the sake of the rest of us. Thanks, @ginidietrich 

    •  @JuliaStewartPR It really is disappointing. I’m with you- hard work, honesty, and creativity win. It may take us longer, but we get there…and we can sleep at night.

  • Having run a few campaigns myself, I have to say that the “air war” has completely disintegrated to the point of being nothing but a real liability for everyone involved.  The key to any political campaign has always been efforts on the ground to organize and mobilize – and this nonsense only makes that harder.  What’s interesting is that the lessons we learn on the ground in politics have a place in general marketing, especially for small biz.  But this crap?  Feh.
    Big media has been rendered useless by terrible practices, IMHO.  I think that goes all around.  As long as it doesn’t ruin social media, too, but that may be too late as well.

    •  @wabbitoid The thing that really bothers me about it all is both sides say, “Well, it’s just an ad.” But the general public doesn’t know it’s just an ad…and they know that.

  • Sparksheet

    @ginidietrich Hey Gini, curious what you think of @dmscott’s concept of “newsjacking” – is it spin or something else?

    • ginidietrich

      @Sparksheet Oh sure…why not bait me??

      • Sparksheet

        @ginidietrich Hehe 😉

  • The really disappointing part is that it seems to WORK. Too many people are just not interested in learning the truths behind the situation, so they take the latest soundbite and take it as gospel. Speaking of that, I’d like to start the rumor here that I’m awesome. If I say it enough, it will be true, right? I’m awesome. Truth.

    •  @jeanniecw I’ll pass that rumor along. Let’s see if it can expand. And then you’ll clearly have your PhD from the Mike Walters School of Praise.

      •  @ginidietrich Learned from the best!

  • This is a very difficult area. To one side, an ad interprets a policy and its results. To the other side, it’s a lie. To one side it’s a powerful argument. To the other side it’s complete straw man. To one side it’s an article of faith. To the other side it’s a sign of ignorance.
    Yeah, there are plenty of examples of cynical advertising and absolute lies on both sides. The only solution is a better informed electorate, and sadly, I see us (at least in the USA) moving in the opposite direction. 
    Did you have start off the week this way, after such a stellar ending to last week? Gee whiz….

    •  @barrettrossie That’s why I tried to look at both sides of the coin with this post. Everyone lies. They don’t just stretch the truth of embellish. They lie.

    •  @barrettrossie Oh .. and … maybe the week will pick up after this? I mean, it won’t end as well for you, but you never know. Perhaps you’ll be the first double #FF.

  • Situations like this are truly a shame. Is there such a thing as “honest politicians” anymore? We’ve become so accustomed to lies and stretched truths that we’re actually surprised when we find out someone is being honest (at least I’m surprised). I dread elections because of all the smear campaigns and finger-pointing ads. They’re so disheartening. This is going to make me sound like a total hippie, but can’t we all just get along?!?

    •  @Jill Tooley I’m going to be a hippie with you!

  • ginidietrich

    @barrettrossie Ha! Good point.

  • I think the problem is the most egregious political ads we see on the TV/radio/internet come from PACs, and not the politicians. It seems their main goal is to deceive the general populous as much as possible to get them to be so disgusted with one candidate that they’ll vote for the other.
    You know the end of each ad when it says “X-Y-Z is responsible for the content of this advertisement…?” Well I’m sure they didn’t actually develop the ad and instead hired some advertising/marketing/pr firm to produce their dirty work. I wish there were a way to find out who these firms were and call them out for developing these completely dishonest ads. We need to hold our industry more responsible for producing this garbage. 

    •  @Anthony_Rodriguez Usually it’s not a PR firm or ad agency that’s doing it. Typically it’s the media buying firm (and there is a very big one here in Chicago) creating these and messaging them. Most PR and ad agencies don’t get into this kind of work.

  • Leon

    G’Day Gini,
    When I was about 15 years old, I became very interested in politics. One of our two major parties, the ALP–read Democrats in USA- was going through huge ructions that ultimately kept it out of office for about 20 years.
    I complained to my father about the spin and even blatant lies that the politicians involved were telling. He replied, “Don’t worry son. They’re only politicians.”
    That happened over 50 years ago. The older I get ,the more I understand how smart my father was.
    To quote one of your better known dramatists: “it comes with the territory.”
    Have fun, Best Wishes

    •  @Leon It makes me sad that we all excuse this behavior because it does come with the territory.

  • Yes.both sides of the aisle are killing me with bursts of BS.

  • arikhanson

    @kamichat @ginidietrich How long have you been waiting to use that headline, Gini? 🙂

    • ginidietrich

      @arikhanson A very long time! @kamichat

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