Is there anything on TV more infuriating than the political ad? If you agree with the candidate or issue, then you really don’t need to see it, and if you disagree, then you end up tallying all of the distortions of your reality that you see in the spot.
Each time an election draws near, I often wish that the fast-forward could go a little bit faster, or that I didn’t watch things like the World Series in real time, as I get pounded over and over with shoddily-produced, unhumorous ads that all look and sound alike.
However, as is often the case, what pisses off the consumers is seen as good news for the executives, so it is that Cable ad executives are looking forward to the plethora of spots that will plague the rest of us.
“We’re expecting a healthy year,” says Ed Dunbar, VP of strategic integration for Comcast Spotlight, the ad-sales arm of the largest U.S. cable company. For starters, there are 36 gubernatorial races this year compared with just 11 in 2004. With so many candidates for state office, Dunbar figures this will be a record year for political-ad spending on cable, surpassing even the high-profile races two years ago.
It’s already starting here in California, as a couple of Democrats — the guy who is exploiting his daughters and the guy who worked at eBay — vie for the chance to lose to Arnold this fall. Actually, it never seems to end: in California anymore, it seems like there is an election every week, and so we are always dodging one ad or another. And don’t get me started on the fracking phone calls!!
What’s very weird is that various execs profess excitement about a new wrinkle in political advertising: longer-form spots in their Video on Demand services. So, in addition to being bombarded by commercials, we can choose to download a five-minute on-demand piece about a particular candidate?? Golly!
“We talked about [VOD] in 2004, but we really didn’t have it fully baked,” says Larry Fischer, president of Time Warner Cable Media Sales. “And consultants weren’t ready to hear the pitch. I hope that’s changed.”
He suggests that on-demand ads offer an increasingly jaded public an alternative to 30-second political spots that are often long on attacks and short on substance. “I think the more information that’s available to all of us the sort of the Jeffersonian notion of an educated electorate and the more we can hear it first-hand, the more reasonable and responsible judgments we’re going to make.”
Anyone who doesn’t stand to make money from this and still thinks that it’s something to which the electorate will flock, raise your hand . . . Anyone? . . . Anyone? Didn’t think so.
Seriously: if we want to go find out more information about a particular candidate or issue, we can just go to the website, thank you very much.