How to Waste Millions: Run Political Ads on Television

Political ads on TV not worth the money

As I was standing in line for an hour-and-a-half at the Tuckahoe Elementary School voting station yesterday, I had the good fortune to strike up a conversation with the gentlemen next in line: John Adams, the recently retired chairman of the Martin Agency. Naturally, the conversation turned to the presidential election.

Adams opined that the vast majority of the money spent on television advertising this election season was wasted. There is little substantive that can be said in 30-second slots, and voters have learned to tune them out, he said. Candidates continue to invest in TV ads because political consultants make tons of money placing them.

His observations yesterday were prescient. Hillary Clinton outspent Donald Trump on political ads, mostly negative, by a massive margin, and to the astonishment of the television pundits she lost. Trump, by contrast, focused on generating “earned media” (news) through his tweets.

Adams is not a big fan of Twitter and other social media, which is thinks is superficial. He prefers “long-form” formats that allow the thoughtful discussion of policy issues, although he admits that thought pieces may not be to everyone’s taste.

Despite its drawbacks, TV ads can reach a large audience quickly. One suggestion from the man who presided over the Martin Agency’s creation of the Geico gecko and cave man ads: Television can be used to present positive messages that are difficult to peddle to a cynical press corps. But there is less utility in running attack ads. Reporters love nothing better than a cat fight, so it’s usually easy to inject negative spin about an opponent in the media. Whatever the ultimate solution, he says, the millions of ad dollars squandered in 2016 could have been spent to better effect.


Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


8 responses to “How to Waste Millions: Run Political Ads on Television”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    we are often reminded here in BR that when people are taxed – money is taken from them that they’d spend “better” that what the govt would spend that taxed money on…..

    but I point out again – that money for negative TV advertising comes from people – donating their hard-earned money that survived being taxed – on things like donations to candidates to fritter away on negative ads when they could have spent it instead on much more productive things like retirement… or long term care insurance , or even Gecko car insurance …

    maybe it would have been better – taxed – to shore up Social Security that they’ll depend on instead of a building a fatter 401K, eh?


  2. You were on a roll there, LtG until that 3rd paragraph.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      thanks! just pointing out that what people do with “their own money” is not necessarily BETTER than what the govt might do with it!

      that seems to be conventional wisdom but for every 600 army toilet, I can show you a $5000 hot tub -when the owner is 200K in debt for the house and cars, underfunds his 401K and is depending on Medicare and Medicaid to pay for his health care… when he gets older.

      1. Thank God you are here to protect me from myself. Lord knows if I only handed over even more of my money to the government everything in my life would be better. Things would be better because the RICO violation on feet better known as the Clinton crime family would spend my money far more wisely that I would have spent that money,

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Oh I’m NOT arguing for higher taxes. I’m just pointing out the contradiction in the claim that people know better what to do with their money – and at the same time – ARE STILL expecting THEIR GOODIES and help from the govt.

          How many folks could actually get health insurance at all if it was left up to insurance companies to turn down those who were older and sick to keep rates low for those that are not?

          How many people CHOOSE to NOT SAVE for their retirement much less for their medical care and instead rely on Social Security and Medicare that they claim they’ve “paid into” but really have not – to the level needed for those programs to pay for benefits?

          People want to keep THEIR money but they also want THEIR GOVT benefits , eh?

          What if you had to pay the full cost of your health insurance with no tax deductions and the insurer was free to turn you down or charge whatever rates they felt they could charge?

          who do you run to if they “jack up” your rates?

  3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    I ‘d guess political advertising on TV tends to reinforce views – positive or negative – about a candidate or an issue. I don’t think they are run to provoke thoughtful debate.

    But then it’s been my experience that most people who come to actual candidate debates have generally made up their minds already how they plan to vote.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    the question is – do you want the government to force health insurance companies to insure you?

    yea or nay?

  5. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    One of Hillary’s problems is that she ran a very traditional campaign with very traditional ads when the overweening theme of the year was change, social media, etc.

    Now look where we are.Be careful what you pray for..

Leave a Reply