Political Campaigns Just Love the News

They're Skipping Bio Ads and Going Straight to the Issues

By Published on .

Evan Tracey Evan Tracey
Just as automakers are talking about gas mileage and emissions in their ads to sell their cars to concerned American consumers, the candidates for president are piggybacking on issues such as immigration, the war in Iraq and global warming to sell themselves to the American voters. At a point in the campaign traditionally reserved for the standard bio spots and ads outlining the candidates' 10-point plans, the most recent salvo of ads is designed to latch on to current events as a way to get noticed in all the media clutter. And looking at the most recent polls showing Governors Richardson and Romney surging, it may be working.

It is no secret that political media buyers view the news and public affairs programming as the "ocean front real-estate" of ad placement (if you can afford it, you buy it). To date, every Democratic candidate and interest group airing campaign ads has placed over 80% of their media buys in the news or on news-related programming. On the Republican side the Mitt Romney campaign is placing close to 60% of its buys in the news. So with a bull's-eye on the morning, evening and late news dayparts the campaigns' messages are matching up with the storylines in the news coverage.

As Memorial Day approached, gas prices continued to climb and a controversial compromise to reform illegal immigration was reached in Washington, and the campaigns' commercials echoed these issues with a dash of partisan rhetoric thrown in. The strategy is both politically sound and smart. Not only do these ad messages appeal to the more informed primary voters, but they also become a part of the news coverage of these issues -- further helping these messages cut through the clutter.

During the last few weeks, Democratic challengers have been airing ads in the early primary states and on cable news channels about the recent Iraq funding bills, trying to place pressure on their fellow Democrats. And as global warming is all over the news and gas prices are rising with the temperatures, the nation's future energy solutions and global warming solutions are front and center with Senator Dodd and Governors Romney and Richardson's most recent campaign ads.

The rapid-response award, however, goes to Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign. With the ink not even dry on the press releases announcing the break-through compromise on illegal immigration legislation in the Senate last Friday, the Romney campaign had an ad on the airwaves in Iowa staking out ground opposing the deal.

So as summer heats up, the campaigns will hope to connect with voters (and a few reporters) by staying topical and proactive on the issue of the day -- at least until they start attacking each other.

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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.
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