At $3 billion and counting, the 2010 elections have set a record for spending by political candidates. That this happened while millions of Americans are out of work, and the country is still suffering from the financial crisis and the Great Recession, is mind-boggling. But that’s a topic best left to others. Instead, think about this. The Los Angeles Times reported today (10/29) that while political candidates have relied heavily on the internet to raise money, it’s not where they spend it. Instead, they’re relying on good, old-fashioned local TV in a desperate bid to reach voters. Another favorite medium for incumbents and challengers is direct mail, the kind that arrives in your mailbox, not your inbox.
So what are we to make of this? Why is the internet considered a great way to attract dollars, but not votes? There could be several reasons:
- There still aren’t enough older voters, the kind most likely to turn out for midterm elections, available online.
- A 30-second commercial (or a printed direct mail piece) is better suited to deliver the scathing, negative messages that dominate political advertising.
- The right voters can be more accurately targeted with TV and direct mail.
- There’s something less compelling and persuasive about a message delivered digitally.
- When push comes to shove, politicians are just more comfortable with the tried and true way of communicating with voters.
No matter which candidates come out on top in the elections, the battle for votes should have a profound effect on marketers. At the least, it raises questions about what can and what can’t be accomplished online. That traditional media is alive, well and continues its powerful hold on us. And that politics just gets stranger and stranger every year.