Many credit Hilary Clinton's Presidential Primary wins in Ohio and Texas to her controversial "Red Phone" ad designed to raise doubts about Barack Obama's experience on national security.
Despicable sleaze? Clever politics? Love the ad or or hate it, what I saw was a common sales tactic that every media sales rep uses at some time in their career.
When you sell a product where the outcome cannot be predicted, like a presidential candidate or a media buy, raising doubts about your competition, aka "playing the fear card," is an effective way to win business.
On your next sales call
If you are in a competitive sell where you have the more established, better known, or widely accepted product you can ask "what if" questions to raise doubts about your competition in the mind of your media buyer. Clinton's ad raised asked "what if" an inexperienced president got a 3 AM Red Phone crisis dropped in his lap.
Media questions you can use to raise doubts about competition:
"What if your ad campaign fails because you did not cover a key demographic (that my media covers better)?"
"What if your ad campaign fails because you bought the cheaper media whose circulation is poor?"
"What if you ad campaign fails because you bought the cheaper media upstart instead of the media with the proven track recored?"
And if the media buy is very high profile...
"This is an important media buy. If it fails a lot of people could get hurt. Hey, remember the old saying from the 80's computer industry , "No one gets fired for buying IBM."
Don't push too hard. If your "sales technique" shows you will be branded as a manipulative huckster. To play the fear card you stoke the latent anxieties of your buyer but never overtly say the anxiety is totally justified. After you leave their office you just want them to worry about their media buy if it isn't with you.