Being honest and having an open dialogue is one thing. Gracefully admitting to a mistake, promptly apologizing, and working to solve it is also one thing. Being open and frank and saying whatever you want to when it completely undermines the people who represent you and those whom you represent is another thing entirely.
Case in point: Vice Presidential candidate, Senator Joe Biden.
As many already know, Joe Biden called out one of his own campaign's advertisements during an interview with CBS news anchor Katie Couric on Monday. Distancing himself from the ad which questions John McCain's computer literacy, Senator Biden explained that he actually thought the spot was "terrible," and moreover, he neither knew about it or had anything to do with it at all. He then tried to cover for the obvious political marketing misstep by pointing his finger at the McCain camp and saying in slighty more eloquent terms, 'they started it!'
Opinions about the ad itself aside, Biden's response to it was 100% inappropriate given his position in and influence over the campaign.
Point 1: He was unprepared; he hadn't even seen the ad in question!
Point 2: He made an obvious effort to distance himself from the spot, directly undermining the marketers working to support him, undermining Barack Obama's approval of the ad and demonstrating a harsh divide between the two running mates.
Point 3: Upon realizing his mistake, he didn't exactly take back the "terrible" judgment or otherwise restate his unwavering support of Obama. He merely directed the blame back to the other party.
First and foremost, it is absolutely any political figure's responsibility to know the advertisements running in representation of him. Nobody is ever going to convince me otherwise, and nobody especially is going to convince me that he doesn't "have time" to review every single nationally aired 30-second ad paid for by his campaign.
Secondly, and most importantly, all good marketing campaigns need - above all else! - a united front. Conflicting messages are likely to be a campaign's biggest downfall because it dilutes the fundamental message. "In conflict" is an uncomfortable place to be and your target audience is going to sense that immediately.
Finally - and this is the point I try to drive home over and over again - if you're going to attempt to acknowledge a mistake like this, you need to actually acknowledge it, and if it isn't really apology-appropriate then you have to at least explain the "misunderstanding." Shrugging it off is the opposite of sincerity and it's something you simply can't afford to do, especially when the entire country is watching and critically analyzing every move you make.
So please, somebody send over a few marketing coaches to camp Biden so we can get back to scrutinizing the presidential candidates instead.