Election Cycle Ushers in New Age for Political Marketing

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

The presidential-election cycle is shaping up to be one for the ages.

Already it's well on its way to being one for the record books. According to Evan Tracey, of TNS's Campaign Media Analysis Group, "The top tier for both the Democrats and Republicans appears to be well on their way to raising at least $60 million each in 2007 and should have more than enough money to run TV and radio ads at saturation levels in all the early primary states." That's only the top tier. And that's only for the 2007 portion of the festivities.
Photo: AP

Hillary Rodham Clinton was the victim of a homemade, pro-Barack Obama ad on YouTube that gained national attention when it appeared in major news outlets.

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This time around, the money being spent will be overshadowed by the strategic shifts forced upon political campaigns by drastic changes in the political landscape.

The first change is the creation of a "Super Duper" Tuesday primary. Political strategists will have to rethink everything from traveling schedules to TV buys. Will personal appearances in New Hampshire and Iowa be less important? Or more important? Will it make more sense to buy national TV time rather than local? These are the sorts of issues political strategists feel they were born to handle, and no doubt many of them will relish the opportunity. As Mr. Tracey points out, there's even the slim chance this could lead to a campaign spot in the Super Bowl.

Then there's YouTube. This will be the first presidential election in which YouTube plays a part. Already, we've seen one example that hints at the issues at play: the pro-Barack Obama "Hillary Clinton/1984" ad. Here we had an unknown player inserting a candidate into Apple's copyrighted commercial and tacking on the official website of the Obama campaign. Then the basically free, professional-quality campaign ad broke through the YouTube clutter and ended up in the news cycle, boosting its audience exponentially.

Perhaps the only issue not broached by the "Hillary/1984" spot is that of the campaign trail. How will the ultimate tool in gotcha media affect the behavior of candidates attempting to tailor their messages to very specific demographics?

Whatever happens, the election cycle will be an exciting one. And how the various campaigns end up dealing with YouTube and the issues it raises may actually provide lessons for nonpolitical marketers. Either way, Advertising Age will be following it closely, trying to sort it all out with news coverage and our Campaign Trail blog at AdAge.com/CampaignTrail.
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