Friday, October 27, 2006

Even more on political advertising

Now that I'm on a roll, I might as well get a few more things out.

It's hard for a Canadian, let alone a NL'er, to understand the magnitude of the US political advertising industry. In the 2004 election cycle, television stations raked in more than US$1.6 billion from political ads aired by candidates, issue groups, and parties.

That's not a typo. That US$1.6 billion is apart from other campaign expenses like radio, paper literature, websites, rent, direct mail and other things a campaign spends money one. It does represent the lion's share of all US political campaign expenditures.

With so much at stake (high political office and power) and so much money being spent, there is a strong incentive to ensure that the money is spent as effectively as possible.

That means substantial investment in research - polling and focus groups. The research comes in at different phases in the process. Before the ads are produced, polling will test messages to see what might work and what might resonated with the target voters. Those results will shape and guide the ad's content, style, tone and messaging.

Once the ad is produced, it might go before focus groups for testing. This may lead to tweaking, scrapping or running as it.

When the ad starts to run, further polling might be done to evaluate results to see if people remember it and what impact it's having. Even after the ad run completes, some further research might be done to determine if it had lasting impact.

With US election timelines of 8 to 24 months, there's lots of time to be at that. In Canada and this province, election timelines are 60 days down to 21 days so we don't have the luxury of that much time. Our decision process are much more compressed and might have to change on a dime.

That's not to say that US campaigns take their sweet time at things. Even so US campaigns can still turn on a dime to take into account current issues in the news.

Here's a really good example. Keep in mind that the ad hit the airwaves within days of the story breaking that republican member of congress Mark Foley inappropriately contacted underage congressional pages with sexual messages and that the congressional leadership may covered that up. Minnesota's 6th District congressional candidate Patty Wetterling took no time to get these ads out.

Clearly her polling showed that the republicans were vulnerable on the issue. The republicans have tagged themselves as the moral party while assailing the Democrats as the party of degenerate defenders if not degenerates themselves. They were ripe for a counter-attack and Wetterling took full advantage of the opportunity.

Here's one a set from Tennessee - Bob Corker versus Harold Ford. It looks like a nasty race down there.

This one's low production values are intentional - it's supposed to look cheap and glib.

It sounds like Ford's polling showed that a class war was the way to go.

I really love this one. Corker skewers Ford for a variety of things in a very funny way:

More to follow . . .

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