SPOTLIGHT

Tuned Out

Dozens of televisions display a political advertisement with the image of former Speaker of the House and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista Gingrich at the American furniture electronics and appliances store December 27, 2011 in Urbandale, Iowa. 
National Journal
Steven Shepard
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Steven Shepard
Feb. 25, 2014, 6:55 a.m.

We’ve writ­ten a lot lately about the TV-vs.-di­git­al di­vide in polit­ic­al ad­vert­ising. Voters aren’t con­sum­ing me­dia in the same way as pre­vi­ous elec­tion cycles, and it’s in­cum­bent on cam­paigns to get their mes­sages in front of as many eye­balls as pos­sible.

— A new bi­par­tis­an poll puts these changes in stark re­lief. Ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey, con­duc­ted by Glob­al Strategy Group (D)/Pub­lic Opin­ion Strategies (R) and first re­por­ted by Politico, nearly three-in-ten re­spond­ents hadn’t watched live TV in the week pri­or to be­ing in­ter­viewed (not in­clud­ing sport­ing events), in­clud­ing more than 40% of voters un­der age 35. For the first time, less than half of voters said that live TV is their primary way to watch video con­tent.

— The easy con­clu­sion to make is that TV is out and di­git­al is in. But that’s over­stat­ing the case. And the same tech­no­logy that’s mak­ing live TV less dom­in­ant is, at the same time, mak­ing TV ad­vert­ising more ef­fi­cient and tar­geted. Set-top-box data and the rise of ad­dress­able ad­vert­ising mean that less money will be wasted over the air.

— An­oth­er over­sim­pli­fic­a­tion: The en­trenched con­sult­ant class isn’t try­ing to ad­just. That’s one of the main com­plaints we hear from next-gen­er­a­tion di­git­al con­sult­ants, but, for their part, me­dia con­sult­ants are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly plat­form-neut­ral. “I think this busi­ness is be­com­ing one thing,” On­Mes­sage Inc.’s Brad Todd (R) told Hot­line earli­er this month. “We’re screen-ag­nost­ic and we’re plat­form ag­nost­ic. All our cam­paign strategies in­clude now a mo­bile com­pon­ent, a di­git­al com­pon­ent and tele­vi­sion.”

That doesn’t mean that the polit­ic­al in­dustry has done an ad­equate job re­act­ing to these changes in com­mu­nic­a­tion, or that Demo­crats haven’t out­paced Re­pub­lic­ans on this front. But the fact that two of the largest polling firms in polit­ics have been con­duct­ing this sur­vey for the past four years is evid­ence the es­tab­lish­ment is tak­ing no­tice.

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