Jan 18, 2020

Political ad campaigns fall behind technological change in media

Television and radio advertisements continue to be the main ways political candidates target their audiences and relay their messages.

Political campaign advertising sticks to traditional media rather than Internet advertising because that’s what works, campaign experts said.

Political science professor David Schecter said campaigns rely on traditional methods of advertising because they are driven by who votes.

“Voting is habitual – the same people show up at the polls at each election,” Schecter said. “It’s cost effective to target those people as opposed to spending money on people whose eyeballs don’t see it – it’s just not worth it. If you have one dollar to spend, 90 cents has got to go to tried and true methods.”

Ann Kloose, the chief of staff and council assistant for Fresno City Councilman Brian Calhoun, said campaigns go wrong when candidates start to experiment.

“Politicians stick to traditional media for advertising because it works,” Kloose said. “Campaigns go negative when they do it scientifically. There has been a big push in recent years to use radio and TV. I’ve even read of grass root folks going back to newspaper ads.”

Schecter said politicians spend little money on Web advertising because they don’t get the same bang for the buck.

“Campaign professionals allocate resources,” Schecter said. “We know Web advertising is not as effective or persuasive.”

Kloose said politicians spent less money on Web advertising because Internet ads were untested and could become annoying.

“This is not about democracy,” Schecter said. “This is about targeting voters. Bringing new people into the process is simply fantasy. Campaigns are interested in controlling turnout – the public thinks they should do more but their job is to get elected. Nobody wants to experiment in the race for the presidency.”

Kloose said youth voter attention and participation might go up if multimedia outlets were targeted more.

“Everyone is obsessed with being Online and that’s where young people’s attention is drawn to,” Kloose said. “We would be remiss if we didn’t look into that to engage and incite young people to vote. It’s worth it if the funds are available.”

Schecter agreed but said campaign advertising strategies probably wouldn’t change much.

“I can’t blame campaigns for not targeting young voters,” Schecter said. “If more 18 to 24-year-olds came out to the polls, they would be targeted. It’s a sad catch-22. Their numbers are dismal at the polls and everyone knows people over 50 vote. So that is what is targeted.”

Alex Mendoza, a 25-year-old criminology major, said youth would pay more attention to the political process if they were targeted on the Internet.

“I’ve been registered to vote since I was 18 and I have always got most of my political information from the radio or TV,” Mendoza said. “But everyone is always on the Internet these days – I spend at least two hours per day Online.”

Vanessa Smiley, a 22-year-old communications major and registered voter since age 18, agreed.

“The older generation gets political standpoints from the radio but young people usually don’t listen to the radio,” Smiley said. “Young people get the majority of their information on the Internet – that’s why it’s always so slow. I’m sure Barack Obama pop-ups would probably get him more votes.”

Smiley also defended her generation from the accusations of apathy.

“It’s bogus that the older generation thinks that they can’t reach younger people,” Smiley said. “Young people do care, especially now more than ever with the war going on. If you said something that would reach young people, you would get their attention.”

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