Marketers always dream of the opportunities a bigger budget would afford.
“If I just had $250,000,” we think to ourselves, “then I could REALLY make an impact.” That money may mean the ability to add some new marketing talent to the team, put extra energy into reaching an audience that’s often neglected; maybe even the chance to test out a new social media campaign strategy.
But what if instead of getting that extra $250,000 you were dreaming of, you got something more along the lines of $250 million?
My mind is spinning thinking of all the possibilities that nine digits of budget entails. Talent just went from a kid with 2 years of experience to a full team that includes the likes of Seth Godin and Scott Monty. I’d probably even pay to have Jon Hamm impersonate Don Draper, just for kicks. I could put millions into researching the needs, preferences, locations and decision-making habits of every audience segment and definitively know what levers move them.
Forget about Effies and Clios – my marketing campaigns would be winning Oscars.
So then why is it that political advertising campaigns are so bad?
Rinse and Repeat
Barack Obama is estimated to raise $1 billion to support his bid for reelection this year. Mitt Romney pulled in $10 million dollars in just one day of fundraising last year. Even Herman Cain raised over $14 million in his short-lived run for the Republican nomination. With so much money at their disposal, it really is amazing how bad the final product typically ends up being.
While I’m sure a painstaking amount of work is put into devising political advertising, it seems to be more of an exercise in repetition than creativity. All of that beautiful budget is used to place heavy media buys which make watching TV unbearable. What’s worse is that all the commercials seem like they can be boiled down to one of the following two formulas:
Formula 1: [Insert Opponent Name] + [Black and White Photo/Video of Opponent Making A Weird/Unflattering Face] + [Insert Negative, But Lacking Context, Factoid] + [Quick Flash of a Smiling Photo/Video of Your Candidate]
Formula 2: [Insert Your Candidate Name] + [Color Photo/video of Candidate with Family, Veteran, Blue Collar Worker or Senior Citizen] + [Insert Positive, But Lacking Context, Factoid]
Both have the same end result: mind-numbing advertising that further disenfranchises the American people.
In a recent post, Digital Influence Group’s Kevin Green detailed that, all too often, “we limit our thinking to what we know and we’ve experienced.” This is all too true in politics, where it seems that innovation can only take place in the medium used, not the actual message that is spread across that medium.
Go watch a video on YouTube and you’ll likely be bombarded with AdRoll that tells you why Ron Paul is “America’s last true statesman.” Or you may notice that Mitt Romney has some promoted tweets showing up on your feed the next time you visit Twitter. You could even stumble upon Barack Obama’s campaign HQ in the virtual reality world Second Life. Political advertising is at the forefront in terms of leveraging marketing platforms to find and reach their audience…
They just have no idea what to say to them. If the candidates want to change our perception of them, they need to change the message altogether.
Changing the Conversation
Just because candidates have huge budgets to work with, it doesn’t mean that the idea needs to be overly complicated.
What if, instead of producing the same old staid advertising and buying media, the candidate used his/her money to do something meaningful? Can you imagine how impactful it would be if Barack Obama announced today that half of the money he raised ($500 million) would be used as a down payment on the national debt to demonstrate his commitment to righting our financial ship? Or if he decided to use that money to fund entrepreneurs’ business ideas to show how dedicated he is to stimulating the economy? Or just donated it to a good cause? And then he used his massive following on social channels to encourage his constituents and supporters to do the same?
In a time where mistrust of politicians is at an all time high, a candidate could fundamentally change the political conversation through a single, strong action like one of those listed above. Think of all the press and conversation that act would garner; the confidence and excitement it would instill in the American people; of how refreshing of a break it would be from politics as we know them.
He’d certainly get my vote.
Connect with Matt on Twitter @_matthewjdunn.