Political ad spending is expected to reach $4.4 billion in the 2016 presidential cycle, up 16% from the 2012 elections (Washington Post and NPR). The good news is that this is a clear demonstration that TV is still the best way to reach America’s masses. In fact, in a NY Times article earlier this year, it was reported that over 87% of adults over 18 watch television, making it by far the most popular single medium in the country.
Does TV Influence Voters?
For the most part, it depends on the candidate and, naturally, the ad. All evidence indicates that TV is a great way to bring attention to little-known candidates, those on the fringe (think Dr. Benjamin Carson two months ago). Conversely, well known candidates don’t get the same benefits, since they are more readily recognized. According to a study done by UCLA political science professor Lynn Vavreck after the 2012 elections, even those affected were only influenced for a short period — less than one week. According to another study, this time done by Bowdoin’s Michael Franz and Washington State University’s Travis Ridout after the 2008 election, you need to air a lot of ads in order to register an impact. And by a lot, I mean more than all of those annoying telecom ads combined. “Having a 1,000 ad-advantage across the entire campaign, for example, resulted in a 0.5 percentage point improvement in a candidate’s share of the vote in 2008,” they reported. Still, do you think Al Gore would have taken that edge back in 2000? Not surprising to me, negative ads are even less effective, according to studies done by George Washington University and Rutgers in 2007. It’s been our experience that dwelling on negatives doesn’t work for DR either. It may get its point across, but it doesn’t create the right buying environment. Just like when attempting to consumate a relationship, you need to “set the right mood.” Now you also have the loss of viewers’ attention with the advent of DVRs and smartphones. To stay with my earlier wordplay, folks just aren’t as engaged (a double reference!).
So Why Do Candidates Spend So Much?
This question reminds me of when I first started out in this business working for Pax-TV and spent a lot of time calling on auto dealers. This was in the mid ’90s and most of them still spent the majority of their budgets on print. It was what they’d always done and was a hard habit to break. When their largest competitor spent $20k on a full page ad in the Sunday paper, they felt compelled to buy two ads in the next Sunday’s edition. It was an arms race and everyone was stockpiling weapons. Many had been in the business for years – they learned to buy print from their fathers – and most lacked the creativity to change things up and risk a new approach. So when one political candidate drops a few million in a local TV market, the others soon join in. That’s why most experts give President Obama credit for winning in 2008 by forming a young thinktank of geniuses to formulate a different plan to reach voters. They focused on influencing youths through email, the internet and non-traditional TV media, like longform ads (otherwise known as infomercials). Of course, he and the DNC still outspent McCain on TV by a wide margin. So what does all of this mean and how can your company maintain its DRTV profile in the coming TV ad melee?
What to Expect?
Clearly, there’s going to be a lot less spot inventory going forward. In fact, there’s already been seven times the number of political ads for 2016 than during the same period in 2012, according to Kantar’s Media and Analysis Group. Federal law requires that all candidates get the same rate and this has to be the lowest rate on the station’s card. So if they give you a super low rate, they’ll have to give that rate to all of the candidates. This isn’t going to happen, especially since stations know the candidates are going to pay their rate without resistance.
So how do you avoid becoming collateral damage in the TV arms race? Remember the auto dealers in the mid ’90s? I ended up partnering with several of them to create half-hour infomercials and they were incredibly successful. One small dealer out in the middle of nowhere, for example, sold over 400 calls a month using an infomercial I wrote and produced, and it only aired on our tiny TV station. Detroit IV’s show was a fun presentation about stress-free car buying, with a bubbly female host, and it literally put them on the map. I remember calling to give the owner the airtimes. He responded, “Matt, no need, we’ll be here all day.” After the first airing, his sales manager called. “Matt, our phones lines all lit up and nobody could do anything else until after the show ended. Please give me those airtimes!” They ended up being one of our largest local advertiser and I produced several shows for them. Twenty years later, we’re doing the same thing in several industries, now on a national level. Infomercial inventory will hardly be affected by the deluge of spot advertisements, and with less clutter viewer engagement will remain high. Plus, those watching your infomercial have made a choice to see what you have to offer – it’s not being forced down their throat. This creates the best buying environment possible. Lastly, a half-hour really allows you to present the perfect in-depth presentation, ideal for high-ticket items or sophisticated services (Reverse Mortgages, Whole-Life Insurance Policies, Walk-In Tubs/Showers, to name a few). Simply put, the more you tell, the more you sell. NMC’s revolutionary turnkey platform makes the transition from spot to infomercial simple, easy and very profitable. If, after we analyze your offer, we feel it fits our profile, we will produce the entire infomercial for free. We’ll even close caption it for you at no charge, as required by the FTC. We’ll also provide the toll-free numbers and dubbing, all for free. We invest heavily with you and remove all of the risk. You’ll only pay for the calls our campaign generates, at a price that’s likely less than your current cost-per-call. Few companies provide spot productions for free. I don’t know of ANY other company that offers an entire top-notch infomercial production at zero cost. And our shows can literally transform your company’s sales by generating several thousand quality calls a week.
If your product or service has the right mass appeal, you’ll see your sales skyrocket while your competitors overpay and struggle to get on the air with diminished results (viewers will tune out). That’s how we thrive on TV during an election year.
About the author:
Considered one of advertising’s most respected and imaginative broadcast media buyers and campaign managers, Matthew Goldreich has a track record of over 20 years of direct response marketing success.
An expert in television and radio infomercial and short form marketing, Matt has created and produced winning campaigns for the mortgage, auto, insurance, hair restoration and a multitude of other industries.
Founder of his own successful full service direct response television advertising agency and production company, Matt’s broadcast employment includes NBC and Pax (ION) Television. He has written, produced, and directed dozens of infomercials as well as hundreds of successful short form, direct response ads.