Do Upcoming Debates And So Many Political Ads Equal TV Political Overkill?

Now we move into the next phase of TV presidential content -- the debates. Unlike in previous elections, the debates come on top of wall-to-wall ads.

The ultimate ROI for political ads is measured by votes delivered -- or at least the right kind of votes.

TV debates aren't usually big dramatic affairs. Viewers need to hang in for some 90 minutes or so in order to find a big reason to cheer or groan. So there's a lot of media inefficiency. 

In 2008, 52.4 million people watched the first debate between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain. That was down from 62.5 million for the first debate between President George Bush and Sen. John Kerry in 2004 – but higher than for the George W. Bush vs. Vice President Al Gore in 2000, which pulled in around 50 million people.



Major League Baseball’s playoffs can affect these affairs, because some people would rather see some boring baseball games than a lot of boring debate moments. That said, October brings some anticipation -- including the new TV season -- so anything goes. The presidential debates will be held Oct. 3, 16, and 22; the sole vice presidential debate will be Oct. 11.

Back to advertising: Records will no doubt be broken in Presidential ad spending and in political advertising overall. How will this affect standard TV ratings for the debates? Probably a lot. But even if the viewership is lower, you can count on this: Social media proponents will surely claim big results.

As with any TV content, you need drama and compelling characters. Last time, in the vice presidential debates, we had the smiling improv-stylings of Sarah Palin and the feisty improv-stylings of Joe Biden. Their first debate out-scored the first presidential contest by posting 70 million viewers.

This time around Paul Ryan will try his hand at Biden, who will continue to show big emotion on the big stage.

Even if viewership is lower, TV political media types will look to dig for some nuggets of direction from these yap efforts. And, as mentioned, digital media types will say voters are engaging more as social media interactions hit new levels.

We all want to read the right tea leaves. So that may be the key. Viewers may just hang in there -- even after the blizzard of advertising -- hoping for a good train wreck or an I-got-ya moment.

1 comment about "Do Upcoming Debates And So Many Political Ads Equal TV Political Overkill? ".
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  1. Mark Walker from aka Media Mark, September 18, 2012 at 3:29 p.m.

    Seems like we can all glean something from debates; one-on-one examples of how each candidate answers questions on the same topics. No PACS, no handlers, immediate response required when the truth is stretched too far... These few events will be the only times to see these folks like that.

    End PACs and endless campaign funding, but KEEP the debates.

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