Political Advertising's Bigger Concern: Truth Of Video Or Images?

Truth in political advertising can be a fuzzy thing. But earned media? Even more linty.

The Washington Post says President Trump has uttered thousands of lies, mis-truths, half-truths and gaffes. Off-the-cuff, somewhat real-sounding remarks get attention.

It has netted Trump an approval rate of around 42%, according to That is the “earned media” content.

Yes, other politicians lie, but the sheer number of Trump's lies — and his destruction of presidential norms — define scale.

As the presidential election season ramps up late this year and next, one can only imagine that political advertising — plagued in 2016 by Russian interference — will comprise a different mix. That may mean a new take on video/photo images. Research has shown TV consumers have a strong, visceral reaction to full-motion video advertising.



Recently, a Connecticut state legislature approved a bill requiring disclosure in political advertising when photos have been doctored. The bill was a response to several mailers featuring altered photos of opponents, including one that played on anti-Semitic tropes, according to one report.

The Connecticut bill would seemingly need to add, somewhere, the advertising messaging had been “changed.”

It’s not impossible to assume that if the bill became law it would also include TV advertising. Already, TV consumers are well aware of the usual TV political ad disclaimer about who “approved” a specific political message.

Maybe any possible law will have an audio descriptor attached, perhaps a fast-speaking voiceover professional. There may even be a small font, on-screen messaging -- a la pharmaceutical, legal,or other advertising required disclosures.

Some would say traditional TV political ads might have less impact in future elections because of gains -- good and bad -- made in social media. Yet political advertising continues to grow. 

For example, the 2018 midterm elections were up 80% in ad spend to $5.25 billion for local TV broadcast, local cable and digital, according to Kantar Media.

New political marketing efforts are yet to be discovered. Money to be spent (and made) includes, I’m guessing, new video and photo-enhancing technologies. Some will be good, but some will be on the worrisome, lying side of things.

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