New research shows Obama ads boost enthusiasm – for Romney

It wasn’t supposed to work this way.

But when research firms Evolving Strategies and Qualtrics tested three pro-Obama commercials and four pro-Romney commercials on a sample of 2,384 voters, a funny thing happened.

According to results released yesterday, both sets of spots were very motivating. The only problem is, both motivated respondents to vote for Romney.

Parallel messages

Six of the seven commercials themselves are very parallel.

One of the Romney spots tested attacks the high added costs of Obamacare, while an Obama spot attacks “the Romney-Ryan plan” to “replace Medicare with a voucher system.”

Another Romney :30 cites statistics showing household income has shrunken while national debt has grown under Obama, while an Obama commercial uses Romney footage and denies his claim that the economy‘s still in trouble.

Probably the most disparate spots are Romney’s :30 about his “plan to help the middle class of America” and an Obama spot which claims “Romney made a fortune” by shuttering factories and “sending hundreds of jobs overseas.”

The seventh commercial is a 60-second entry from superPAC Americans for Progress featuring former Obama voters who are now disillusioned four years later.

Disparate results

While the message content was similar, the results were anything but.

According to Evolving Strategies poll analyst Adam Schaeffer, Romney and Obama commercials alike were “jolting” Republican enthusiasm.

“Democratic ads are goosing Republican enthusiasm,” he said  “That in turn will boost Republican turnout.”

This effect was most marked in respondents who’d voted for John McCain four years ago, whose enthusiasm the Obama spots “supercharged.”

“Romney and Obama ads increase the highest level of voter enthusiasm of ’08 McCain voters by 13 points – a 42 percent surge in the number of McCain ’08 voters who are extremely enthusiastic to vote this year,” Schaeffer explained, noting that Obama ads failed to generate corresponding enthusiasm among Democrats.

Be careful how you compete

There’s a lesson in these findings for non-political local Richmond advertisers here: Be careful about how – and whether – you attack competitors head-on. If you show them in your advertising, if you mention them by name, if you quote their selling points, you may end up taking more sales away from yourself than from them.