political season

US Political Advertising Heats Up as Campaigns Sharpen Messaging

Posted by Mark J. Miller on September 17, 2012 04:12 PM

It’s hard to know right now how the good people in the swing states of Florida, Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada will be voting on Nov. 6, but you can get a sense of what the campaign managers for President Obama and Mitt Romney think by watching how they spend their ad dollars.

Romney seems to have given up on Michigan, where he was born and his father served as governor, for the time being since his campaign has “abandoned their (advertising) efforts” in those two states, according to CBS Boston. Wherever the money is spent, though, there will be heaps of it. Total political ad spending this year is expected to add up to $1.1 billion, and only a third of that has been spent so far, according to Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group.

With the Romney camp sharpening its messaging and Team Obama getting tougher on China by filing a complaint via the World Trade Organization, get ready to see a whole lot of political ads, America, such as the latest from the Obama and Romney campaigns, above and below.

Kantar projects that third quarter U.S. ad spending will get a short-term boost from the Summer Olympics and political advertising "but sustained long-term improvement will probably be linked to the health of consumer spending on the goods and services that marketers provide." But as BtoB Magazine notes, brands such as Dow Chemical, IBM, SAP and Siemens are "scaling back" on TV advertising in the U.S. until after the elections.

“TV is still very important,” commented Tom Haas, CMO at Siemens Corp, to BtoB. “It helps maintain awareness. For a company our size—over $100 billion globally [in annual revenue] and over $25 billion in the U.S.—it establishes us as a key player.” Still, Siemens will be modest when it comes to TV messaging on the fourth quarter.

"The elections will be all-consuming," Haas added. "That drives up the cost and drives down the availability and inventory. We don't have a political agenda—we are not looking to advocate for one thing or another. Our feeling is let the elections pass, then come in with a fuller program after the new year, which is our second fiscal quarter."

So who's seeing an uptick from the increase in political advertising? Local TV stations in the Cleveland-Akron market are in the lead, pulling in about $37.3 million so far this year from political ads according to research by Wells Fargo Securities cited by Multichannel News.

Just behind is Washington, D.C., where $35,504.710 has been laid down while the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota market has raked in $31,233,120. Another major city in a swing state, Las Vegas, grabbed the fourth slot with $30,665,420 spent there and Florida’s Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne market fills out the top five with $24,854,410. Not too shabby.

Romney has a lot more money to spend than the President, but it remains to be seen if too much messaging can drive a voter to vote the other way or not. As the electoral map stands now, Obama has 247 electoral votes locked up while Romney only has 191. It takes 270 to seal the deal. So the Mittster has got to be hoping his big bucks on ad spending will be effective.

“It will be no holds barred on the Republican side. All that money the Obama campaign has been expecting Romney to spend on ads will finally start to flow,” Kantar/CMAG vice president Elizabeth Wilner told CBS. “The Obama campaign is betting on their message, while the Romney campaign is betting on tonnage.”

And the candidates won’t be the only ones throwing cash around, of course. This is the first presidential campaign since the Supreme Court made campaign-finance laws a bit more lax back in 2010, which means a lot more dough can be paid out by groups and individuals not attached to the campaigns. So enjoy the show, America. 

Times may be tough, but one sector of the economy that appears to be growing these days is political-ad producer.

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