Lame Political Ads In A DVR World: Fast-Forward To The Next Candidate

TV stations are smiling in their sleep these days, dreaming about the nearly $3 billion in TV advertising political candidates and issue campaigns are estimated to spend next year.

But those executives might have nightmares when all is said and done if hard-core political commercials flood their airwaves.

Consider this: Most of those political ads - positioning commercials, lobbyist-backed political issue spots, and, the always popular attack ads - will be the dullest stuff viewers will see on TV.

Longtime political consultants will say attack ads, and similar commercials, work - but voters increasingly can see what's coming, and, more important, can do something about it.

In a world where 19% of U.S. TV households have DVRs - and at least 25% or more should have by September 2008 -- many of those voters will be increasingly fast-forwarding through the lamest TV content. Political commercials will be at the top of the list.



And for the rest of the U.S. voting population that doesn't have DVRs? Snoozeville, that's what. Current 30-second political spots are, says Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor in chief of, "unbelievably boring... like in the 1950s."

She's right; there's no reason to see any change coming. The only reference to the past I want to see in a political spot is perhaps some 1950s retro, film noir tongue-in-cheek political creative that might tickle voters' fancy.

Why does this matter? In the new world of commercial ratings, creative execution becomes that much more important. How will station executives feel when viewers turn off TV shows, or tune out other commercials, because that content was preceded by typical attack ads featuring clichéd, sarcastic voice-overs, with clichéd black-and-white stills or video of politicians.

Local TV commercial ratings aren't coming the way of TV stations anytime soon. But in the future you can be sure national advertisers, who got national TV programmers to agree to commercial ratings, will surely get commercial ratings guarantees for local TV stations as well.

That is, unless, Nielsen blows it - or, perhaps, politicians legislate against it.

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