2014: A New Landscape for Campaign Ads

March 18, 2013


Gearing up for the 2014 cycle, traditional thinking would lead you to believe that the time for TV ads to hit the airwaves is September; however, 2012 challenged that philosophy and 2014 is going to end it. President Obama’s campaign showed us that the earlier you make your media buy and get your ads on the air, the better. Congressional races showed that the general election is becoming less competitive than primaries. According to Cook Political Report, there are 372 “solid” Democratic and Republican seats in the House. On top of that, they rate another 35 seats as “likely” to either Democrats or Republicans. Tally those numbers up, and you have less than 30 House seats that are likely to be competitive in November (anybody despise gerrymandering as much as I do? Read this).

Back to TV ads. With all these “safe” seats, challengers are no longer coming from across the aisle, but intra-party battles (Berman v Sherman Debate Fight/Awkward Hug). Campaigns need to be in full gear months before primary season, so media buys were made and ads hit the airwaves earlier than ever in 2012. This trend will repeat itself in 2014 as the numbers above show. Also, campaigns have found they can use early advertising to mess with the other party’s primary.

Senator Claire McCaskill picked former Representative Todd Akin to run against her, who became a Democratic consultant’s dream opponent (see “legitimate rape”). There is no longer a standard campaign map for candidates because so much depends on location. Knowing your district is more important than ever because districts are dictating the way campaigns flow, as opposed to the candidate dictating the campaign. The new TV motto is “early and often”.

One of the bigger changes in 2014 will be linking with traditional media with digital. TV ads will find ways to promote Twitter hashtags and handles, as well as Facebook pages. Since Pew Research and many others believe that mobile will take off in future elections, brining in social media through TV ads will be a huge asset to campaigns. People can catch the end of an advertisement and be able to follow and “Like” the candidate’s page, increasing name recognition and better educating voters. Just think what would have happened with this amazing ad if there had been a hashtag associated with it?


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