TV Is Still King In Campaigns, But Not Always Decisive

Kenneth Goldstein, prof. of political science, University of San Francisco, says spending on old media is alive and well in politics. Speaking at the Marketing: politics conference Tuesday noted that 3 or 4 dollars spent on a campaign is spent on advertising and over half that amount is spent on local spot TV.

During the 2012 presidential race, a total of 1.3 billion was spent on TV advertising. Why does TV still dominate spending despite lower cost digital options? One, because “it’s catnip for journalists” according to Goldstein, arguing the news media doesn’t really care about campaign advertising unless it’s on TV. Second, it’s seen as the best way to reach people who otherwise don’t care about politics.

But he noted that TV ad spending doesn’t always translate directly into “punches landed.” For example, Romney in the 2012 race, and Republicans generally rely more heavily on TV spending from outside groups. But even when they outspent Democrats on TV ads in races they haven’t necessarily won because getting money from external groups makes it more difficult to coordinate messaging and run effective campaigns. 

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