Advertising really could make the difference in close-fought US presidential election

Usually the importance of advertising is elections is overrated; most people have more or less made their minds up before the vote so ads, however cunning and persuasive, only operate at the margins.

But the US presidential election will, according to the polls and pundits, be decided at the margins. According to some estimates there are only one to two million people undecided about who they’re going to vote for; in a electorate of 300 million people this is staggering.

The odds, therefore, favour Republican candidate Mitt Romney. He’s raised more money than Democrat rival Barack Obama but he hasn’t been able to spend most of it yet because permission was waiting on his official annointing as Republican candidate, last week.

So far we’ve seen lots of ads from the Obama camp, although not the official Obama campaign, painting Romney as a tax-dodging, former vulture capitalist, which isn’t so far from the truth. But these have failed to deal the knockout blow their sponsors hoped for. Most Americans seem to think that anyone, vulture capitalist or not, who can get the economy moving is the man for the job. The next UK election, in 2015, may well be decided on the same priorities.

Obama desperately needs some good news on the economic front over the next few months if he’s going to win a second term. This is going to be difficult in the extreme with the Chinese economy slowing drastically (which may be good news for the US long term but isn’t over the next few months) and the Eurozone still mired in disarray and disagreement.

If he doesn’t get that, then Romney will win.

But if Obama does get some good news from falling jobless totals and a recovery in the housing market then the election could hinge on a good ad or two.

Here’s one of the ones that helped Ronald Reagan and the Republicans be re-ellected in 1984, by Hal Riney.

Will Obama be able to say the same? And can he find the right creatives to do it?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

One comment

  1. Avatar

    Hello Stephan,
    As to advertising and Politics- things can get quite messy.
    In your article from February, “Now Republicans accuse Clint Eastwood of pro-Obama pitch in Chrysler Super Bowl ad”, you asked the question:
    “But, as someone in the Fox clip observes, the copy was written by Wieden+Kennedy. Are they secret Democrats in Portland?”
    As I pointed out in the comments, there is plenty of evidence that points to W+K being not so secret Democrats.

    Now that Eastwood talked to the chair at the RNC, no one will think of that Superbowl ad again without a bad taste in their mouth. I’m sure the Obama administration would love to take back their tweets such as Bill Burton’s: Eastwood #winning

    An ad agency tying themselves to a party need to be careful in selecting an iconic spokesperson…And iconic spokespersons need to understand all the levels of messaging that the ad agency is trying to produce before taking the job, even for a car ad.