A Banner Year for Political Ads

Written By Marge Pistulka, Senior Specialist, Broadcast at Empower MediaMarketing

The plethora of candidates that began the national race has been narrowed to just two. On the Democratic side, superdelegates were thought to be key to clenching the nomination. With so many voters split, the race to the White House will continue to be a hotly contested race with heavy coverage and continued campaign advertising spending.

2008 continues to be a banner year for political advertising spending. Spending to date has reached over $400 million dollars, already surpassing some of the initial estimates published. Contributing to this heavy spending is not only the national election, but also several congressional and gubernatorial races across the country.

The Race to Date
The primary season started off with early races in Iowa and New Hampshire.  As the traditional first primaries wrapped up, everyone looked ahead with anticipation to Feb. 5, also known as Super Tuesday. With 24 states participating, it was thought that a front-runner would emerge from both parties. After Mitt Romney dropped out of the race on Feb. 7, John McCain looked to be the main front-runner for the Republican Party in terms of delegates and states won. The Democratic Party, however, was a different story. After Super Tuesday, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were still neck and neck, making it evident that heavy campaigning would continue into later primaries. Obama has now been named the apparent nominee. That being said, Clinton has not ended her campaign, but suspended it. This means that she retains all the states and superdelegates.

While McCain is the clear Republican candidate, Obama and Clinton continued to actively campaign until this week. Even the Democratic National Committee’s decision to allow Michigan and Florida delegates to be counted had not resolved a clear nomination until all primary elections were over with Obama the presumed nominee.

“Superdelegate” is a term commonly used for some of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention, the presidential nominating convention of the Democratic Party. Unlike most convention delegates, the superdelegates are not selected based on the party primaries and caucuses in each U.S. state, in which voters choose among candidates for the party’s presidential nomination. Instead, most of the superdelegates are seated automatically, based solely on their status as current or former party leaders and elected officials.

Now that the Democratic nominee is set, it is time to roll with the formal campaign for the general election. Total spending will continue to grow, with predictions in the $4 billion dollar arena. A few key strategies could come into play as dollars are fed into the run to the White House.

Candidates will continue to capitalize on the push of TV and the pull of the Internet. Due to television’s mass coverage, candidates will spend most of their money in TV to seed their main campaign messaging out to voters. Many commercials are then driving voters online to the candidate’s campaign websites to provide more details about their platforms and ask for donations. This TV/Internet tactic appeals to voters who are watching TV while simultaneously using their laptops. While Internet advertising will increase greatly from 2004, it is still a small percentage of the pie (in comparison to the television spend).

TV advertising for the election could go national. With so many larger states up for grabs, it might make the most sense for candidates to place national schedules for the general election. A national cable strategy could be a good investment to take advantage of the efficient cost and U.S. coverage of cable. The battleground remains fluid for both Democrats and Republicans.

Candidates will target advertising to younger than the typical 35+ voter.  Obama has been targeting younger voters throughout his primary run.  His campaigns have been focused on younger audiences, skewing FOX buys and high profile programs, such as American Idol.  McCain and Clinton have been focused on the news areas, both on TV and cable.

Vice presidential nominees joining the ticket will bring more money to home states.  Both parties have strong choices going into November. On the Democratic side, Obama will feel pressure to choose Clinton — this might help bring a divided party together and balance out the ticket. However, this scenario looks less and less likely given the negative mud slinging from both candidates. Other vice presidential candidates to be considered include former Republican Jim Webb, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Delaware Senator Joe Biden and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.

On the Republican side, McCain needs to build support with the base of the party, so the first choices might be former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee, but for a variety of reasons none of these choices are likely to make the short list. Serious contenders include Florida Governor Charlie Crist, or Rob Portman from Ohio who is the former Office of Management and Budget director.

At this point, neither party is expected to announce the vice presidential nominee until closer to the conventions, which occur in late summer. But over the next few weeks, expect an increased focus on the selection process and a few new names are likely to be added to the list of potential choices.

Posted By Kevin Dugan on behalf of Marge Pistulka

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Kevin Dugan
Kevin Dugan

My content creation habits were formed as a kid -- filling notebooks with writing and taking stacks of pictures. These habits have evolved through my 20 years in marketing, as I’ve been immersed in all forms of content, social media and online technology. As Editor-In-Chief of Media is Power, I guide editorial strategy and ensure your needs are met. This is one way I help tell Empower’s story as the director of content.