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Keep Spending Millions On TV Ads, Politicos. I'm Sure It Will Work Someday.

Posted by: Jon Fine on January 30, 2008

In the yes-but department: Time’s Joe Klein, writing for Time’s excellent campaign blog Swampland, is all about finding the silver linings thus far in the ‘08 Presidential Race.

Including this (emphasis mine):

One of the truly invigorating things about this year's presidential campaign on both sides is the inefficacy of television ads. I mean, Mitt Romney's garbage barge got him where in Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida?

Nowhere. Things have been more gentle on the Democratic side--Obama's had the more effective uplift stuff (the new Caroline Kennedy ad is very good), but I've seen zero sign that ads made any difference in this campaign, as opposed to Obama's heavy investment in field organization.

He's definitely right regarding Romney. But--not to repeat myself or anything!--one thing that kicks the struts out from under his argument is, well, which candidate spent the most on TV in Iowa?

Yup. Barack Obama.

And, yes, by all accounts the Obama campaign has a great ground game, but I can't help but notice that one of the winners in Iowa also spent the most on TV. And I don't know if there's any way to determine which factoid, in the final analysis, contributed more.

Reader Comments

Ken Wheaton

January 30, 2008 7:07 PM

Thank you for pointing that out. And something else Klein apparently hasn't learned from Iowa -- the race isn't over yet. Romney's ads could still play a factor ... then again, he's going to have to spend big to overcome all the free TV time the media is giving Johny McComeback Maverick By God He's a Phoenix McCain (seen recently on the cover of Time)! See where all that word of mouth and ground game got Mike Huckabee, right?

Mark Van Patten

January 30, 2008 7:49 PM

I work for a newspaper.
I just peeves me to no end that candidates lust after newspaper editorial endorsements and use them in their spots, but spend tiny amounts of their campaign budgets on newspaper ads.
Election after election, research proves that newspapers readers are voters.
I guess politicians just hate newspapers that much.

Tim Penning, APR

January 31, 2008 9:30 AM

Of course, we would also have to look not just whether or not a candidate does ads and how much, but what are the messages and quality of the ads, what was the placement strategy, demo target etc. The problem may also be that TV is not as mass a medium as it used to be.

Flip Wheatley

February 1, 2008 3:38 PM

I work in television, and the reason politicians like TV is the age-old, "sight, sound, color, motion and Emotion" element we have over print. Not to mention that newspaper readership has eroded to horrific levels. Let's assume 80% of your readers are voters, and 40% of my TV watchers are voters. My 40% still beats your 80%, because the sheer volume of people TV reaches is much greater than print. And, I reach people with TV who could be swayed to vote. Politicians lust after print editorials for the same reason the local mom-and-pop business owners lust after a TV news story for a "grand opening" (I'm sorry mom-and-pop, your opening a new store is rarely news-worthy)--they have a short-sighted view of the value. A news story, though deemed more valuable because of the credibility factor it receives by being on the news, only runs once, but an advertising campaign can run for weeks...

Jon Fine

February 1, 2008 3:59 PM

The thing is this: Embedded in your argument is the assumption that all TV viewers are watching the ads.
I don't think they are. And I think they skip the political ads more frequently than almost anything else. What swing-state TV viewer in Ohio (or Florida, or Colorado) next October is going to sit thru another tedious attack ad?
(Full disclosure: I'm primarily a print guy, tho I'm also an on-ar contributor to CNBC.)

Flip Wheatley

February 1, 2008 5:05 PM

Newspaper ASSUMES that 2.3 people per household read each and every paper, each section, each page, etc., and we all know that's not true. "Skipping" the TV ads alludes to Tivo-type devices, and Nielsen shows us that only (approximately) 11% of Tivo users regularly skip over commercials--I would think at least that many don't even look at print ads. Further, we also know that cable network viewers are much more apt to channel-surf than broadcast network viewers (because cable advertising breaks are more than twice as long as network breaks, thus people get impatient). So, as somebody who sells for your big sister network (in a medium size market), I understand why politicians come to Network TV in droves...

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