Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Political Advertising Saturation - It's Not Your Imagination

A recent article by Elizabeth Wilner on the AdAge blog regarding political advertising in this Presidential campaign cycle caught my attention.  Ms. Wilner, the former political director for NBC News, was recently named Vice President for Strategic Initiatives of the Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), a Kantar Media Solution company and has provided us with interesting insight into the campaign media blitz that is currently underway.

As background, Kantar Media is one of the world's largest insight, information and consultancy networks with its parent, WPP Group plc located in London, England.  Interestingly, WPP stands for Wire and Plastic Products plc; a manufacturer of wire shopping baskets.  Kantar is WPP's market research and consulting companies division with its headquarters in London, U.K.  

Ms. Wilner opens by noting that, not only will the number of television ads increase, there is another difference this time, particularly for those poor unfortunate recipients who happen to live in Ohio, Nevada or Florida.  The number of Republican super PACs and 501(c)(4) organizations (tax-exempt non-profit organizations that operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare or are associations of employees whose net earnings are devoted to charitable, educational or recreational purposes) have exploded.  Between April 10, 2012 when Mitt Romney unofficially became the GOP presidential candidate and early September, these groups accounted for 55 percent of all presidential ads on the Republican side with the remaining 45 percent being sponsored by Romney and the RNC.  Looking back at the same time period during the 2008 election, only 3 percent of Republican ads were sponsored by outside groups with 97 percent being paid for by the McCain campaign and the RNC.  These outside groups are nameless, faceless groups that cannot communicate with the Republican candidate and their ads are far more likely to be negative.  They can also raise nearly limitless funds.

On the Democratic side, the difference between the 2008 and 2012 elections is negligible; this year, 91 percent of all ads aired in the April to September timeframe were sponsored by the Obama campaign or the DNC with only 9 percent of the ads paid for by outside interests.  In 2008, the numbers were 96 percent to 4 percent.

Let's get to the meat of the matter.  How many ads will American voters be exposed to/quickly bored with?

Let's look at the week of August 15th to 22nd, 2012.

Columbus, Ohio saw 1,842 ads, up 227 percent from 2008 and 303 percent from 2004.

Orlando, Florida saw 1,63 ads, up 1218 percent from 2008 - in 2004, there were ZERO!

Las Vegas, Nevada saw 2870 ads, up 310 percent from 2008 and 331 percent from 2004.

Looking at the big picture, as of early September 2008, Americans had seen 832,291 political advertising spots (or 36 percent of the total) for the 2008 cycle which ultimately totalled 2.29 million.  As of early September 2012, in this cycle, Americans have already seen 1.3 million political ads, up 156 percent from 2008.  If, as in 2008, the U.S. is only 36 percent into this advertising cycle, that means that Americans have another 2.3 million ads to listen to in less than two months or an average of 43,000 occurrences per day across America!

Over the next two months, voters will most likely see the Romney campaign ramp up their advertising, saturating the nation's airwaves with the GOP message, making me suspect that we may not yet have seen 36 percent of the total.  If that is the case, between the two political parties, the 23 percent of voting Americans who consider themselves to be swing voters will have seen far more advertising than they need to make an informed decision.

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