This week CNN reported that political television advertising is expected to exceed $3 billion for this year’s presidential election. Not only could this be considered a tremendous waste of money (imagine what else could be done with this money), but there is an important question of whether or not this method of advertising is as effective as it used to be.
Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report told CNN, “Chances are, just as what happened in 2006, voters will be numb after watching hundred and hundreds of ads. The sheer number of ads probably dilutes their importance. After a while, the ads just become lots of chatter and an ad will have to be really good to cut through the noise.”
First, as so many television viewers (like I do) record their favorite programs, less and less people are actually watching commercials and are instead fast-forwarding through them. The only time I actually do watch commercials is during a Red Sox or Patriots game – but they are usually the same ten commercials run over and over again. So in essence, many of these political commercials will be TiVo’d and skipped over – flushing a portion of that $3 billion down the toilet.
Second, is this the best way to win an election? Over the past four years there have been a lot of advances online (Facebook, YouTube, etc). Having a strong online presence seems to be just as important as having a commercial every thirty seconds that criticizes the opponent. I think this method proved to be unsuccessful during the Massachusetts gubernatorial race last year.
Although spending $3 billion that doesn’t belong to you could be considered fun, it seems that today’s candidates need to adapt better to the way people are using media. In 2004 when Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube were not as influential and mainstream as they are today, the presidential candidates spent $1.7 billion on television advertising. So why would they almost double this amount when less people are watching commercials and more people are online?
Perhaps a more effective example of how candidates can adapt to recent technology are the YouTube debates that recently took place. This allowed voters to submit questions for the debate through YouTube, and the actual videos were used during the debate – which created a much more interesting and unique way for voters to connect with the candidates – and cost a lot less then $3 billion.
I know that 98% of these advertisements will be recorded and skipped over on my TV. Will these commercials influence who you are voting for?