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Top Political Consultants Feed Concerns No Politicos Understand How Advertising Has Changed

Posted by: Jon Fine on January 8, 2008

In a New York Times Op-Ed piece from last Sunday, Mark Mellman and Michael Bloomfield, the top execs at political strategy and consultant Mellman Group, divined a crucial truth about the media ecosystem. They were just a few years late in figuring it out.

How can we begin to understand why Mitt Romney outspent Mike Huckabee on television in Iowa by 6 to 1, yet lost, after watching his rival jump into the lead even before spending a single dollar on ads?
How can we explain John Edwards’s second-place finish despite his being outspent at least 3 to 1?

The answer is no less profound for being simple — what people say to one another can be as potent as what TV advertisements try to make them think.

Waitaminnit! So roadblocks of 30-second political commercials, almost all of which are unwatchable, are a lousy way to market a product in an era governed by TiVo, remote controls, and gnat-sized attention spans?

Get outta here!

If I were a candidate paying these guys’ fees and this was the advice they came up with only after the 2008 Iowa caucuses, they would be under the bus faster than you can say “A vote for me is a vote for change.”

Both Sides Of The Story Department: I've written previously about how shortsighted campaigns are to maintain an iron-lung-esque dependence on TV advertising, and I don't think I'm wrong. At the same time, I can't help but notice: Which candidate spend the most on TV ads in Iowa?

That's right. Barack Obama.

Reader Comments


January 10, 2008 3:39 AM

That's easy: the unwatchable ads did poorly, and the good ads did well. Obama's made for TV (in a good sense).


January 10, 2008 7:55 AM

Today, advertising can reinforce messages that already have traction but it rarely creates traction anymore. The skepticism of paid messaging (of any kind) has become too high.

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