Archive for December, 2008

[Note: This was written for publication in March 08 at the height of the primary season. In retrospect, it’s observations about the campaigns seem fairly accurate and predict a challenge McCain would have in the Fall election. It runs here for the first time.]

I realize that I’m just a simple advertising guy, but here’s what I don’t understand about the current campaigns for president. Why is it that I can’t turn on the TV without hearing some talking head tell me that the best thing for the Republican party would be if Mike Huckabee dropped out, or bemoan the fact that Hilary and Barack really ought to work out which one is the nominee so we can move on.

Are you people nuts? Move on to what? Because in the business I’m in, what’s going on here is exactly what you want. It’s what brands crave and pay agencies large sums of money to manufacture. It’s called new news.

“New news” combats the fatigue people experience when they feel that they’ve already heard your story a hundred times before – because they have, in fact heard it a hundred times before. As every salesman knows, there are only so many times you can say something to a person before they start to tune it out. We call this, the “nagging mom” effect. And advertisers know it too. That’s why the smart ones try to vary their media buys – where they show which commercials when.

But what advertisers really crave, because it really energizes people, is new news. A new “thing” to talk to people about, a new reason to talk to them.

Right now, every day, the Democrats have one and the Republicans don’t. Every time Hilary and Barack open their mouths, it’s news. What did he say about her, what did she say about him, what do we say about both of them. The press covers it, the cable networks repeat it and the pundits discuss it, until the next thing happens.

But on the Republican side? “This just in, John McCain is still the de facto Republican nominee”. Over and over again, with decreasing regularity. Which pushes McCain to the back pages – either literally, as the press covers him less, or figuratively, as the public tunes him out.

For proof, look no further than voter turnout. Democrats are up two and three times what they usually are – especially in states where, four years ago, the nominee was a foregone conclusion. And on the Republican side? Flat to down, especially since they established a presumptive nominee.

Coincidence? I don’t think so. But if it was, that would be news…


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