Thursday, July 09, 2009


They say timing is everything.

Generally speaking, “they” are correct.

In politics, paid media is all about timing. Absentee ballots just started dropping (not meaning that they are arriving today, but that they have been given to the post office for delivery today). Smart campaigns will usually drop a mail piece aimed at absentee voters either the same day as ballots start dropping or sometimes the day before – the object being for them to arrive at more or less the same time, so that no one has a chance to fill out their ballot before they’ve gotten at least one paid media contact.

Other key aspects involve trying to hit voters right before the election, which means trying to time your last mail drop so that they arrive the Monday before a Tuesday election. I tend to like to drop them Thursday. It increases the chance that it arrive on Saturday (or even Friday), but also decreases the chance that it doesn’t get there until Wednesday.

Television and radio are a little different. As a rule, when you go up on TV (or radio), you want to stay up until the election is over. Which means, if you only have the budget for two weeks of cable, you only start running those ads two weeks before the election.

There are some exceptions. For example, to defend one’s self against an attack or to launch a timely attack around a recent issue, you might want to break out of the traditional schedule long enough to run an attack or defense. Sometimes a challenger may want to run a week or so worth of ads early to make a statement – it’s a clear way of saying, “I’m here and I’m a legitimate threat to the incumbent that the media, voters and donors need to take seriously.” Similarly, an incumbent facing a hard re-election might make want to make an early statement to show their strength or define their opponent early in the race. Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd is an example of an embattled incumbent who ran some ads early to try to revive his battered image well early.

Deveron Gibbons recently bought some cable for the St Pete mayoral race. Though not privy to his campaign team’s thoughts, my best guess is that they are looking at their fundraising and institutional support and seeing that it does not match their strength in the polls. They could be afraid of seeing that financial and institutional support slip if they aren’t showing that it can translate into actual votes and they want to make a show of intent. It can also perform the same function as the direct mail, in the sense that the timing of the buy coincides with the days right before and just after absentee ballots drop. I don’t expect him to keep cable ads running continuously through the election, but instead that he will save resources for another, larger buy as we approach Election Day.


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