Does Political Advertising Really Work?

In an article over at Praxis, Matthew Sheffield discusses whether political ads that pepper our evening TV viewing time during the campaign season really work.  In his opinion, they don’t, and he give five reasons why.

I think we’ve gone past “weird” in terms of the 2016 political season, but Donald Trump has bucked a lot of traditional campaign tactics like puffery of self-funding vs. fundraising, the lack of a national campaign structure, and the notable absence of TV ad time.  Is it working to get him, or is this just Donald Trump wanting to have a public platform from which to blather and not really seeking to be president?  I think that’s a question we’re still trying to answer.

The last about national ad time may just be a presidential candidate realizing that ads probably won’t win the election.  Interestingly enough, Trump has spent more in online advertising than Clinton has in the month of June.  On top of that, the national news media’s continuous coverage of his antics during (and after) the Republican Presidential primary season aided in his nomination.

It’s a lengthy, but worthwhile, article in which Sheffield makes a very good point:

Even if the TV ads that conservatives love so much were actually useful at the presidential level, it seems like none of the organizations paying for them have ever stopped to consider just who they’re buying the ads from: the very same left-leaning media outlets that are constantly condemning them.

Republicans have, quite literally, been subsidizing the media arm of the political movement that opposes them.

Basically, we’re gluttons for punishment in this matter.  Sheffield also makes the statement that self-proclaimed fact-checkers are the news media who tend to hit a Republican candidate more often than a Democratic candidate.  The only folks really benefiting from national ad buys are the news networks, Democratic opponents, and the Republican consultants who encourage candidates and PACs to spend (usually donated) money on worthless ads.

The money isn’t being ponied up by big-dollar GOP donors this go around, so maybe they’ve/we’ve started to learn.  Besides, when did a TV commercial change your mind about a candidate for office?  Perhaps we’ll also realize the same thing about yard signs.

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Pete Gibbons
Pete Gibbons

Just from my personal experience, the two candidates in my race that spent the most money on advertising, also physically campaigned the least, both made the runoff. Money talks. There are far too many people that vote strictly by name recognition.