It wasn't what you think. It was not the Camel in the Woods campaign from Publicis & Hal Riney, nor the Nighttime in America campaign from Kirschenbaum & Bond. Not even the Top Gun campaign from Deutsch Incorporated was the probable cause. Though they all seemed designed to instill in the voting public fear of changing horses in mid-swamp, the actual cause of the election victory was something quite different, something also attributable to the power of advertising in America.
The Democrats thought the election would be about the international situation. The Dean-Kerry ticket talked relentlessly about broken promises and fatal misjudgments. But, that was their misjudgment, and after the turnover of power in Iraq to the UN, the public was not interested in the desert anymore, even though there were still more than 175,000 of our troops over there.
The surprising growth spurt in the economy in the last quarter of 2003 and the first three quarters of 2004 was what bought "W" his second term. After America had waited for two full years to no avail for the Bush team to do something positive to help the economy, something unexpected happened. Beginning in early 2003, corporations began to invest heavily again in actually promoting their products and services to customers
Economists had long been looking for an upsurge in business capital investment to lead the way out of the recession. But it never came. The experts never took much notice of what did come -- advertising investments. And, since advertising does actually work to drive company revenues upward, the resulting rebound in corporate growth kicked into gear just in time to save George W.
It was unprecedented. In no other recession in the past 50 years had advertising led the economy out. Company execs had always waited to think about an increase in ad budgets until they were emboldened with excess profits. Thus, ad spending always lagged economic growth in prior recoveries. This time, company managers kicked their ad budgets into high gear before they had any real evidence they would hit their profit numbers. Amazing!
Only after the new ad investments had been made did corporate profits begin to rebound. Just when everyone had given up on the employment market, jobs began to grow as companies hired to fill the demand generated by the ad investments. Unemployed workers, with short memories, were so happy to see their colleagues getting jobs that they forgave the Bushies, voted for a second term and hoped for their own re-employment. Even business capital investment eventually surged as the demand for the output of the nation's factories required new facilities.
But, what caused the corporations to unexpectedly increase those ad budgets, setting off the whole virtuous chain that got "W" re-elected?
That is not known, though some attribute the little noticed, essentially underground movement to the continuous cheerleading of an obscure trade publishing company known only to the world of advertising media insiders.
"After all," Kenneth Fadner, Publisher of MediaPost Communications is reported to have written in those days, "our problem is excess product and excess capacity, not a need for new factories and machines. What could be a better stimulant for the economy than advertising investments which both employ people and stimulate demand for existing products with the same dollar? All we need is a little good old-fashioned promotion to get the plant and equipment we've already got working full-bore again."