Politicians Should Consider Giving Gift of Silent Nights

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

If Santa's got some excess coal this year, we suggest he dump it in the expensive leather loafers of the presidential contenders looking to clog the airwaves with advertising this season.

Not that it would do any good. As of Oct. 22, spending in Iowa by four presidential hopefuls alone has reached a combined $8.7 million, so they're certainly not likely to show any restraint in the month before key elections.

Retailers should be given a shot to advertise their wares during the most important season on their calendars. Much holiday advertising serves a practical and useful purpose: alerting kids to the new toys they should beg for and alerting Mom and Dad to the relevant sales. Further, the holiday ads can have a true impact on the bottom lines of retailers.

That won't be the case with campaign advertising. We're not being overly harsh when we say that the overwhelming majority of campaign advertising is meaningless piffle that isn't likely to sway politically savvy primary voters who've already decided. At best, the good people of Iowa and New Hampshire will be subjected to the pablum of political pandering -- of candidates promising "change" and bragging about their courage and integrity.

But it's likely to be worse. Negative advertising typically starts a month prior to elections. With the Iowa caucus set for Jan. 3 and the New Hampshire primary likely to be held before Jan. 8, voters on the way to pick out their Christmas trees could be treated to the sounds of John Edwards telling them why Hillary Clinton is a lying servant of D.C. lobbyists, or Mitt Romney reminding everyone that Rudy Giuliani dressed in drag and married his cousin.

Of course, Santa Claus will climb through our heating vents before politicians heed our advice. Asking them to consider the businesses that will have their commercials bid off the air won't do any good. Giving voters the holiday gift of silence would be too much to ask.

Perhaps they can do it for that perfect excuse for political overreach: the children. Think of the children! Do little children really deserve to have "A Charlie Brown Christmas" or "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" intruded upon by political advertising?

Sadly, the candidates would probably answer with a resounding "Yes!"
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