American election season is in full swing. For all the interest in Twitter posts about the recent presidential debates, the political ad still reigns high for impact.
NBC News reported “$807 million has already been spent on political ads, tv and radio, local and national, cable and broadcast” in an October 18 news broadcast on MSNBC. One campaign was reported to have spent $455 million and the other $332 million. Half of the ad spending is in just three political swing states (Florida, Ohio and Virginia). Judging by my colleagues Peter van Aartrijk in Virginia and Amy Skidmore in Ohio, the ads are constant on radio and television (along with the robocalls) in those states leading up to the election.
Why would one of the most successful business executives in recent American history and one of the most successful political leaders of his generation spend such major sums on a category known for lowbrow production qualities, black-and-white video treatments, scary-voice announcers, and melodramatic music backgrounds? (And why would they bother to spend major time and effort to raise hundreds of millions of dollars just to spend on the tactic?)
Because ads work.
Love them or hate them, here are two reasons why political ads are bigger than ever and key lessons that insurance brand decision-makers can take away from them:
1. They force a focused message. A 30-second TV spot or radio commercial doesn’t leave much choice. A political ad can’t cover a lot of ground. The ad has to grab attention, deliver a message, and raise a question or leave behind a takeaway point. (Granted, many political ads are negative, with an underlying ‘Don’t vote for him or her!’ message. But others are more explanatory and aim to introduce a candidate or highlight an issue or draw a sharp distinction.)
2. They focus on the audience. Whatever else their flaws might be, political candidates concentrate on what they think the voters are concerned about. (Arguably, politicians also are criticized for using focus-group findings and poll results to play to the lowest common denominator. But at least they are using research.)
I admire presidential candidates for their ability to absorb massive amounts of information on a wide range of issues, consider the diverse points of view that voters might have, consider their own positions and potential actions, and deliver messages.
Likewise, insurance is complicated. There is a wide range of issues and needs for brand decision-makers to contend with when they go to market. It’s useful to look at the political communications tactics being used to see what elements might be effective in insurance branding campaigns. Message focus and audience focus don’t just apply to advertising, either: These are useful reminders for social networking, email, product literature, and websites.
In federal politics, “I approve this message” is a phrase spoken by candidates to comply with the so-called “Stand By Your Ad” provision of the 2002 McCain-Feingold legislation formally known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
Are insurance brands standing (or failing to stand) by their ads, emails, websites and other marketing materials?