Using Tonnage To Raise Votes
One of the benefits of living in Connecticut, a state with a measly seven electoral votes that has gone solidly Democratic in every Presidential election since 1988, is that the candidates only come here for our Wall Street bedroom community money and never to campaign. So we don't have to see very many presidential race ad spots on TV. We aren't entirely off the hook, since ex-WrestleMania executive Linda McMahon has spent about $1.5 million on TV spots to support her bid to fill U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman’s soon-to-be-vacant Congressional seat.
By contrast, consider the poor stunned denizens of Las Vegas, where between “super PACs,” various Democratic and Republican committees, Congressional candidates, local candidates and the Obama and Romney campaigns, they have been subjected to more than 73,000 political TV spots. Apparently, Vegas set a record as the place with the most televised campaign advertisements in a single year. At a rate of 10,000 per week, at least 98 different ads are in rotation, testing the sanity of anyone stupid enough to watch live TV in that market.
Media experts estimate that about $3.3 billion will be spent nationwide on political advertising this season, up from $2.5 billion in 2008. At the moment there are about 800 different spots being funded either by Obama's and Romney's official campaigns or liberal or conservative outside groups.
If you watched the debates, you know there are not 800 different talking points between the candidates. In fact, there seem to be only about three that are repeated over and over ad nauseam. After Obama says "47%" and Romney says "last four years" you can pretty much switch over and watch the Yankees try to figure out what to do with a couple of hundred million dollars worth of "talent" that can no longer get a hit. (Caveat: this column written before the Tigers eliminated the Bombers.)
Apparently, if you run political advertising, in addition to famously not paying your bills, you haven't the foggiest notion of reach and frequency. Especially frequency. When interviewed by the national press about all the political ads foisted on them, nary a Las Vegan-ian has a kind word to say about the spots. They are pretty exhausted and fed up.
Now, you would think all this local market ad spending would be a godsend to TV stations, which have struggled with the effects of audience fragmentation just like their network parents. But it has just put the stations in the uncomfortable position of having to preempt spots from the local car dealers and dry cleaners who will still be there after Nov. 6. Federal laws prevent stations from rejecting political ads or raising prices so they can collect a windfall and perhaps price an excessive number of campaign spots out of their market.
Since when did "more is better" become the most effective tactic to change minds? If you are like me, you will watch a commercial spot once or twice, but mute it or speed past it after that. And those are product ads. The only political spots I see are the ones highlighted on the news for being too extreme. I suspect if I lived in Las Vegas, I would come to hate both campaigns so passionately that I would vote for Stephen Colbert as a write-in on the ballot.
I assume that in the 19th century when Oscar Wilde said "Nothing succeeds like excess," he probably wasn't thinking about TV political advertising. Because in this case, it doesn't.