The Great Media Election Battle of 2016

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, April 20, 2016

The vast and growing Democratic and Republican media armies, which consist of TV, digital, social, analytics, programmatic legions, are massing and preparing for the great media election battle of 2016.

The battle of 2016 will begin in August and when it does, the battle will wash over the media landscape with a rain of negative attack ads.

How did we get here?

The Republican field had an impressive beginning, with 17 experienced governors, senators, the son and brother of two living ex-presidents, a brain surgeon and a billionaire. The Democratic field was less impressive and diverse, with one very qualified candidate and the rest second-tier candidates.

Early in the process, Jeb Bush amassed an impressive war chest of funds, which limited the ability of other Republican candidates to raise money, to get their message out and to thwart Donald Trump.

The Bush monies were used to attack the candidacies of fellow Republicans, while at the same time, giving Donald Trump the latitude to rise in the presidential sweepstakes.

Something remarkable has happened in the process. Not one, but two “black swans” have emerged. The Republican black swan is Donald Trump and the Democratic black swan is Bernie Sanders.

A “black swan” happens when a very unusual series of events occur. A New York billionaire, reality TV star and a socialist from Vermont have energized the entire electorate to a level not seen since 1968. They have also alienated important factions within the Democratic and Republican parties.

When will it begin?

Political operatives on both sides say the money in the political market is frozen, due to the uncertainty of the Trump candidacy. The Republican convention will begin the third week in July and will be the highest-rated and most engaging convention of all time, with drama unfolding in real time.

The outcome of the convention will impact Presidential, Senate and House strategies for the Democratic Party. The tsunami of political spending will hit in August after both conventions conclude and will go non-stop until Election Day.

What can we expect?

It can be easily assumed that Democrats have already assembled a mass of anti-Trump videos, which they will be ready to deploy after the Republican convention. In his calculations, Trump will need to measure the downside impact of a failed presidential bid along with billions of dollars of negative attack ads that will damage the Trump brand.

The informed speculation is that Trump will pull out if he does not get enough delegates or will wait to the convention and bow out, versus going through an ugly and unproductive convention fight.

Those who have observed past presidential races say that he has not yet taken steps of a serious candidate and lacks the organization to execute a ground game. On the other hand, the Cruz team is very organized and more effective than Obama's best team.

If Trump is to claim victory at the convention, it is because he changed the conversation, brought nontraditional voters engaged and expanded the Republican Party.

Millennial and Latino voters will be key to the election this year. Millennials now comprise 25% of the electorate. Their media consumption patterns are different from the general population. They watch more video on YouTube than they watch on cable TV. They trust social media more than traditional news.

The main benefactors of digital spending will be Google, Facebook and Twitter. Combined, they have hundreds of sales and support staff deployed to Washington and on candidate teams. They will capture the bulk of the digital spending in the 2016 elections.

In closing, as of this writing, those who are experts in the political marketplace say, “I have no idea, how the Trump candidacy will play out.” Stay tuned, we are at an historic inflection point in American politics and it will surely be a fascinating journey to the finish line.

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