Seems like every election, some political analyst says the end is near for political ads on TV – that TV is dead. Well not this year. Candidates in the midterm elections are blasting voters with TV commercials.
Evan Tracey is on the front lines of the political ad wars. He’s senior vice president at National Media Research, Planning and Placement, a Republican consulting firm, which offers candidates advice, makes TV ads and places them. What does he tell campaigns? Buy as much TV advertising time as you can.
“If the predictions of TV being dead are true then it’s being buried in money,” he says.
Tracey says, sure TV audiences are aging, but older people vote. And TV ads can work with online ads to catch younger voters, who watch TV with smartphones in hand.
“So if I can have my voice and pictures on your TV screen and have my digital ad on your smartphone, I’ve gotten you two ways now,” he says.
Plus TV can be targeted more than ever now. Cable set top boxes tell campaigns exactly what you’re watching. They figure out what your favorite shows are, and advertise on them. But Tracey says it’s still best to use TV as an old fashioned megaphone — blanketing the airwaves, till there’s no escape.
“Some of these states right now – you know – they’re seeing thousands of ads a day,” he says.
States like Iowa.
“It’s been really hard to watch TV without being bombarded with advertisements,” says Barbara Trish, professor of political science at Grinnell College in Iowa.
But Trish doesn’t mind the ads. She loves them, even studies them at Grinnell. One of her favorites features a candidate who compares castrating hogs to cutting pork in Washington.
Trish agrees that TV is still king of campaign ads, but for a different reason. Candidates, parties and outside groups are pouring cash into the midterm election, and it needs a home.
“It’s just that there’s so much money out there,” she says. “It seems like, they feel like it has to be spent on something. You’ve got to put it to use.”
There’s a lot of money sloshing around Colorado, too, where there are close Senate and gubernatorial races. And lots of ads, focused on women’s issues and big government.
Floyd Ciruli is a pollster in Denver and the head of Ciruli Associates. He’s getting sick of all the ads; in fact, he’s been predicting the dethroning of TV since the early 2000s. Banging the drum about how candidates will go digital, and look for other ways to reach voters.
But even he admits, when it comes to TV, “It’s still the king.”
Ciruli says blanket TV advertising can gain a campaign a few points in the polls. That could push a candidate over the top in Colorado.
“It’s going to be close,” he says. “So a couple of percentage points can make the difference.”
Ciruli says TV’s crown will start to slip, eventually. But it’s firmly in place, for the foreseeable future.