TV viewers in many contested states are likely to be exposed to 3,000+ political commercials in the 60 days preceding the 2016 election. And that has important repercussions for every advertiser. First, gaining share-of-voice in this cluttered environment “is going to be virtually impossible to achieve with every candidate trying to out-shout the other”. Secondly, the negative tone of political ads is shown to have a toxic effect on commercials from non-political advertisers. “When there’s 3, 4 or 5 political commercials in every television commercial break, it’s impossible for any advertiser to escape unscathed from this environment of negative mudslinging,”. Third, a commercial’s effectiveness is diminished when multiple competitors for the same office attack each other. All of which could make for a much stronger case to shift dollars to digital solutions. Already there are encouraging signs.
How Digital Can Benefit From TV’s Lack of Political Ad Effectiveness
If we thought the magnitude of political TV clutter that existed in 2012 and 2014 was overwhelming, it’s important to note that it’s sure to be exceeded in 2016. And that makes digital and mobile solutions an ever-more attractive media option.
USA Today recently reported that TV spending on the GOP presidential race alone is five times higher than at the same point four years ago, partly because of political action committee money, which accounts for 8 of every 10 ad dollars spent. The 2016 race is sure to be an unprecedented slugfest considering it’s the first presidential election in eight years without an incumbent, and with 34 senatorial, 12 gubernatorial seats and all 435 congressional seats all up for grabs.
Here’s why those numbers are important to every advertiser, political or otherwise:
First—share-of-voice leads to share-of-mind and share-of-mind leads to impact/results. Share-of-voice in this cluttered TV commercial environment is going to be virtually impossible to achieve with every candidate trying to out-shout the other. Political campaigns, but especially their PACs, are notorious for placing 500+ GRPs or more per week.
Second—the tone of these commercials is sure to be quite negative in nature. General market advertiser should be especially mindful of this. Various studies have concluded that this type of negative ad environment has a deleterious effect on all commercials, whether selling a candidate or a product. When there’s 3, 4 or 5 political commercials in every television commercial break, it’s impossible for any advertiser to escape unscathed from this environment of negative mudslinging.
Third—a commercial’s effectiveness is diminished when there are multiple competitors for the same office attacking each other. That’s something candidates and their PACs should take note of, since it invariably results in less impact per ad dollar for every advertiser.
In many contested states it would not be unusual for a TV viewer to be exposed to 3,000+ political commercials in the 60 days preceding the 2016 election where historically two-thirds of the political spend occurs. How many other political ads they will be exposed to prior is anyone’s guess.
Shanto Iyengar, a professor of political science at Stanford University who has studied the relationship between political and commercial advertising has stated, “Political advertising is extremely negative and people despise it. Advertisers feel there may be kind of a spillover effect. They don’t want to come right after that political ad.” For general market advertisers, not having your ad following a political ad would be as difficult as running between raindrops.
In 2016, it will be more important than ever to consider the total landscape of each medium’s commercial environment, as ads that air earlier in a commercial pod, or sandwich commercials, impact the attentiveness and size of audience to all commercials. Unless a commercial runs first-in-pod, they follow other commercials, so commercials that precede your ad set the tone and impact the size of the audience that ultimately views your message. If the ad is viewed as an irritant—as many political commercials are—the likelihood that the viewer flees, either mentally or physically, is greatly magnified.
Prof. Alex Wang of the University of Connecticut conducted a study which concluded that too many advertisements in the same product category fighting for consumers’ attention will likely lead to them avoid looking at any of them. Again, not good news for any advertiser but particularly bad news for the political advertiser.
Is there any way in which this type of cluttered political ad environment in 2016 could ever be construed to be ideal, desirable, or even acceptable? Probably not. So is television still the panacea for political candidates that it was once thought to be?
The highly respected Cook report recently wrote, “More money has been spent on TV in this nascent presidential race than has ever been spent by this point before. And yet for many candidates, the rising tide of ads isn’t lifting their boats. Maybe it’s because most ads look the same as ever.” And WARC echoed this sentiment writing, “Meanwhile, Jeb Bush and his supporting super PAC have spent some $32.5M on TV, with little effect on opinion polls.”
An article in USA Today on New Year’s Eve titled, “TV Faces Threat To Its Throne In Politics,” also cast doubt on the impact of political television advertising writing, “It’s a paradox of the 2016 campaign—unprecedented political spending on TV ads and unprecedented doubt over whether it’s having much impact.” The article cited several examples:
- Rick Perry’s represented PAC spent more than $900,000 in Iowa after he announced his candidacy in June. Three months later he was out of the race.
- A Scott Walker PAC had begun a $17 million campaign a few days before the former Iowa front-runner dropped out in September.
- A PAC supporting Jon Kasich bought more than $5 million in TV ads in New Hampshire this fall, but his share there has dropped from 12.7% in late summer to 9%, according to REALClearPolitics (RCP) latest poll average.
Maybe television has lost its mojo.
Damon Balch; There’s no reason digital media shouldn’t be 20%-30% of the total media mix. That’s what I would recommend. If you want to find a pool of white noise, go to your TV set. People are spending millions of dollars, and every other spot is going to be a political spot. Now, we are not saying give up on TV completely, however, maybe use some common sense and consider other options.
“You’ve got to find a way around only using TV,” Mr. Balch added: “Digital Media Solutions Work.”
Mobile specifically can be a “great closing tool” in reminding voters to get to the polls, and what they ought to have in mind when they make their decisions. “It’s very explicit,” he said. It’s a message that, if followed, could bode well for the people and the candidates.
Be Different. Get your message in the hands (literally) of people who will be voting in 2016. Our advertising firm offers strategic “turn-key” solutions to deliver a candidates message right into their Mobile INBOX. “We will use mobile devices as the source to feature the candidate and their story to the voters. No Competition. Massive Reach. Election Results!
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