He Who Spends the Most Wins

Elections Prove the Power of Marketing Blitzes

By Published on .

Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
There's a political race going on in my hometown that's fascinating to watch. Not because the candidates are trashing each other, but because it is another perfect example of how to win a political race in America: Use your personal wealth to outspend every other candidate.

TV ads for Tom Knox reach millions of Philly households each week. E-mails fill inboxes daily with campaign updates and requests for more donations. Add to the mix radio spots, billboards, lawn signs, buttons, bumper stickers --you get the idea. It all adds up to a very expensive campaign.

Tom is a self-made businessman, a multimillionaire. Campaign laws limit individual donations to $2,500. But if you're writing personal checks for your campaign, the sky's the (donation) limit. And spend millions he has -- to the tune of $5 million to date. That buys a lot of GRPs in Philly. It's buying results, too. Knox started out as a no-name. After two months of advertising , he's the front-runner in every poll.

Is he the most qualified for the job? That's not the point. This is a textbook case of the power of marketing. You can buy your way to elected office. Hey, it worked for other wealthy businessmen, including New York City Mayor Bloomberg and New Jersey Governor Corzine.

In an era when some question the effectiveness of advertising, it's reassuring that political campaigns such as Knox's can come along and stomp on that notion that ads don't work. It's classic marketing -- there's an integrated campaign, a more-than-sufficient budget to get the job done and effective tracking of results, so the agency can measure the ROI for the client, er, candidate. I believe small to mid-size agencies should take a tip from political campaigns and apply the following to their non-political brands:
  • Seek out clients with real budgets. Anything less than ideal will likely result in a loss for all involved.
  • Measure and report the results regularly to the client.
  • Convince your neighbors to let you plant lawn signs for your local bank client firmly in their turf. (I'm kidding.)
May the richest clients get richer with your help.

For more on political marketing, check out Ad Age's Campaign Trail blog.
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