Hunkering Down For Election 2020

As we enter the countdown to November, 2020, converging factors promise to make this the most interesting election in American history. Other than the obvious issues -- like the fate of a 244-year-old republic hanging in the balance -- there are several media-related developments I’ll be watching with interest.

Dems Fielding a “Winnable” Candidate

This past week, I visited a good friend just south of the U.S.-Canada border who watched the recent Democratic candidate debates.  I now try to avoid political discussions when traveling in he U.S. but I did ask him which from the field of 12,683 candidates (OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that many) he favored.  He said he didn’t really care as long as the one who emerged from the field was able to win.

In 2016, the definition of “winnability” got shook to its core. Going in, I think everyone agreed that Hillary seemed anointed as a winnable candidate. Even on the night of the election, everyone seemed pretty certain that the desk chair in the oval office would by occupied by a pant-suited derriere belonging to Ms. Clinton.



So what is a winnable candidate? I no longer think it’s the safest choice -- or the most obvious one. A winnable candidate is one who can go viral with the electorate. And we marketers know what a crap shoot it is to predict virality.

Craving the Entertainment Factor

Lingering for a moment on my previous point, the one thing I believe will factor into winnability is that candidates cannot be boring. Whether you’re a Trump supporter or not, we’ve all become conditioned to a large dose of theatrics and bombast served with our politics. The 2020 election will probably be more "Game of Throne" and less lucid, rational political debate.

Our Deepening Trust Issues

We have an electorate that is once burned, twice shy when it comes to social media. Even without the deep trust issues we have with Facebook, the diligent among us will be treating any political messaging delivered through social media with a healthy dose of skepticism.

We are going into this next election knowing that we really can’t trust our five senses anymore. I just read a report that the Wall Street Journal has a team of 21 people detecting deepfakes -- those videos that literally can put word in someone else’s mouth. In a world of information channels that can be manipulated with apparent ease, what do we trust?

The most frightening aspect is that these trust issues are really only a problem for the relatively small percentage of the population aware that these things are possible and that we should be wary. Most voters don’t know and don’t care. They will swallow manufactured truths whole.

A Return to Traditional Media

Finally, as an interesting offshoot of our issues with social media, it’s looking as if traditional TV will emerge as a safe haven for advertising budgets. MediaPost reporter Wayne Friedman reported last week that a big chunk of the projected $10 billion political ad spend could end up on TV.

Buckle up. It’s going to be an interesting 17 months!
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