Anatomy of an attack ad: are Malloy and Foley’s ads effective?

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Gov. Dan Malloy and his challenger, Republican Tom Foley make it clear, they’re not fond of one another.

The hostility is ever apparent in the attack ads flooding our TVs.

While many people voice disgust over the negativity, there is a method behind the madness. "In an attack ad, you want to set up your opponent as a villain and set up yourself as the hero," said Eric Cavoli, the group creative director at Cashman+Katz.

Cashman+Katz is an integrated communications company with a diverse client list, including dozens of past campaigns. Cavoli has created all kinds of candidate spots, including infamous attack ads.

"The way that you shoot it, the effects you put on it, there's a lot of black and white, a lot of de-saturation when you are showing ‘the villain’ because you actually want to dehumanize them as much as possible,” said Cavoli,.

While the images are formulaic, the big question is do these ads work?

The co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project says yes. Erika Franklin Fowler says people pay more attention when the ads are less positive. "Negativity is more likely to induce information seeking than positivity, which makes sense, if you induce a little bit of fear on behalf of the voters, they are more likely to seek additional information."

The Wesleyan Media Project analyzes campaign ads across the country. According to the project, "The Connecticut gubernatorial race is the least positive gubernatorial race in the country if we look at airings post-Sept. 1."

In case you are wondering who paid millions for these ads? Well, we all did: the taxpayers. The campaigns are funded in part through state election financing.

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