Candidates Need Two Media Plans for Primary Season

They'll Have to Tailor Buys, Messages on the Fly

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Evan Tracey Evan Tracey
In order to be prepared for any outcome on election night, a good campaign manager will have the speech writers draft both a concession and victory speech. In this year's race for the White House it is probably a good idea to have two media plans as well.

With less than a month between the New Hampshire primary and Super Duper Tuesday, candidates from both parties will be forced to look hard at how and where they are going to score victory and what tools are available to them to communicate to voters. Up to this point, the candidates and groups have spent an estimated $120 million on TV ads (almost two-thirds of this aimed at Iowa and New Hampshire). Barring any election calamity in the next round of tweener contests in states like Michigan, South Carolina, Nevada and Florida, it makes no sense for any of the remaining major candidates to drop out before Feb. 6.

As we learned in New Hampshire, anything can happen and polls are more of an art than a science.

Ideally all these campaigns would like to have $40 million in cash on hand for media buys, but the reality is no one will. That said, campaigns should not abandon media buys in the final stretch. Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are much savvier towards political ads, while voters in Feb. 5 states are just now tuning in and are not used to being a part of this process. They will need to be motivated

So here is what the campaigns need to do:

  1. Don't take your eye off the ball in pre-Feb. 5 states; keep the ad pressure up and be ready for all attacks.

  2. Start to run targeted but small TV buys in the "swing" Feb. 5 states now; ratchet up as funds increase and Feb. 5 nears.

  3. Have a message that is positive and focused on people; ask them to join in your movement.

  4. Head-fake the national media into thinking you are playing nationally (including opposing candidates' own back yards) with network TV, radio and cable media buys.

  5. Focus the bulk of your spending into TV in the must-win states.
  1. Set expectations for pre-Feb. 5 states by saying this is a national race.

  2. Focus remaining ad dollars on the big states where no regional candidates are from.

  3. Know the delegate rule state by state from here until the convention.

  4. In the states without winner-take-all rules find the battleground media markets with the most voters with sympathy for your message (don't target the entire state).

  5. Everything you say or put in your ads needs to be about why you can win in November. It's "electability," stupid!

  6. If all else fails, your message needs to contain the following refrains: "Lies spread by my competitors," "I know you are but what am I", and "Sticks and stones . . . "
Good luck and have both speeches handing on Feb. 5.

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Evan Tracey is the founder and chief operating officer of Campaign Media Analysis Group, a TNS Media Intelligence company. See his complete bio.