Today, politics and mudslinging are nearly synonymous.
More than 75 people gathered in the Toyota Auditorium in the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy on Monday to hear UT alumnus Zack Condry, a political strategist with Prosper Group, discuss the use of negative television ads in politics.
A former student of William Jennings, current senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Condry has managed political operations in nine states.
His first campaign was for Rep. Jamie Woodson during which he worked without pay.
Condry now holds a job in Washington, D.C., in the digital department where he has managed online strategy for well-known figures like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"I knew some folks who ran a digital firm, and they needed a guy in D.C., and so I run their D.C. office," Condry said. "So I'm a campaign guy first and foremost and then with a digital specialty."
Condry explained that negative ads are effective in certain contexts but can be offensive and prevent the desired outcome.
"There's two sort of parallel things," Condry said. "And it really depends on what the priority is, what their values are. Some candidates just want to match the ever-living crap out of their opponents and beat them over the head ... I've seen both (positive and negative) sides work and I've seen both sides fail."
State Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville for District 16, was present at the event. Dunn said he has never promoted negative ads about an opposing campaign.
"I like to run on what I believe in," Dunn said. "If everything is tearing down your opponent, you really don't have a blueprint."
Condry added that personalized ads – not just TV ads for all audiences – are the way of the future. Campaigners can now target a specific group of voters and appeal to them through digital media.
"You are going to see very, very, very personalized ads coming up here in the next few years," Condry said.
Holly Nehls, a freshman in political science and history, felt inspired to pursue her ambitions after hearing Condry's lecture.
"I'm more interested in becoming a politician, but campaigns are an important part of that," Nehls said. "So it's interesting to learn about how they work."