Some $400 million in Republican fundraising to buy ads for the Presidential campaign may have been the biggest case of bad media planning and execution. But needy TV stations aren’t complaining.
On the other side, the hundreds of millions spent to re-elect President Obama looks like a great deal. But the key question is what will happen four years from now? Will any major political party make the same media mistake again?
A recent New Yorker story pushed the idea that TV advertising will only take you so far in this crazy media-everywhere world -- even with political campaigning. The long-held theory is that spending on TV advertising for Presidential candidates is a necessary evil. But that's not the whole picture because tt doesn't factor in old-school political marketing -- real time person-to-person contact.
Research suggests "ground game" marketing is increasingly important in the political landscape and that TV advertising does very little to change people's minds, especially in the last weeks of an election.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said that running heavy advertising in October and early November doesn't have that much impact. At this time, prospective voters want to talk to real people. They won't look at flyers andthey'll hang up on robo-call political messages.
The Obama campaign did indeed advertise during the final weeks, but the reason the Obama team was pretty confident going into the final weeks had less to do with this than with having more on-the-ground resources and field offices than the Romney campaign. For example in Nevada, the Obama campaign had 26 field offices to Romney's 12. The trouble is that much of this isn't glamorous, in-your face marketing that wows big investors.
Big donors want to see their dollars at work. Television is the easiest way for those media investors to get some immediate short-term visual "return on investment." For the longer-term stuff, you need to have a lot of trust in polling and other tactics – you need to trust that less-glamorous, behind-the-scenes marketing efforts are working their magic.