Did Millions & Millions of Dollars Worth of Advertising Make A Difference?

November 9, 2012

Now that the most expensive election in US history is over, the media has turned its attention to analyzing the process and the results.

One of the more interesting questions is the role played by the massive expenditure on advertising.

Each of the Democratic and Republican parties is reported to have spent about one billion dollars on advertising. And that doesn’t even include the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by so-called Political Action Committees. Now there is a misnomer if ever there was one. In my mind, political action is abut more than just sending money. It’s about taking action such as personal participation in campaigning.

Was President Obama re-elected because his advertising was sufficiently better than that of Mitt Romney to have made the difference on election day? Probably not.

According to CBS News:

“They [Romney’s campaign advisers] misread turnout. They expected it to be between 2004 and 2008 levels, with a plus-2 or plus-3 Democratic electorate, instead of plus-7 as it was in 2008. Their assumptions were wrong on both sides: The president’s base turned out and Romney’s did not. More African-Americans voted in Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida than in 2008.”

To put a marketing spin on this interpretation, Romney’s campaign advisers misread their market…and the competition. They assumed that the market, and by extension the competition, would act as it had in the past.

What they did not take into consideration was the competition’s actions to increase its share of the votes by getting more supporters to the polling stations. In effect, these actions took the form of reaching out to voters and doing whatever it took to get them out to vote.

It’s worth noting that these actions were more the result of personal participation in the campaign than spending money.

From the perspective of professional service marketing, there are three things that we can learn from the election.

  1. Advertising is not as effective as many people would like to believe.
  2. Throwing lots of money at an issue is not a substitute for focused action.
  3. Direct contact..also known as outreach…can be a very effective way to achieve our goals.

To learn more about outreach as a tool for marketing professional services, see Contacting Potentially Helpful Strangers.



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