Campaign 2012: A Smart Move and An Epic Misstep
August 10, 2012 - 7:45 am
Two lessons about TV get relearned this campaign season.
- Go on TV first, and early.
- Don’t treat the campaign – or voters – like this is reality TV.
First, the Inslee went up on TV early this season with a big TV buy of over a million dollars statewide. It ran a full minute long ad that was well received by women, families with children and suburbanites, according to folks close to the campaign. This was exactly the demographic that McKenna would need to win – and with which he had had residual name recognition at the beginning of the campaign.
By going out first with a major expenditure, the Inslee campaign defined their candidate on their terms. Voters that got to meet Jay for the first time got to do so according to the Inslee campaign narrative. That first impression is now cemented, and it will take a significant media buy to erode that.
You can view the first campaign ad here for Inslee.
Second, the McKenna folks ran a very awkward ad right out of the gates. It showed their candidate – known as a smart, critically thinking Attorney General – as a somewhat nerdy caricature of himself. Folks close to the campaign said the ad was meant to move a very specific demographic cohort, and they say that it did.
However, too specific a cohort this early in the campaign is probably a misstep when voters are still getting to know the candidates. Moreover, one that amplifies some of the character elements that don’t seem to sell the candidate well (“I was student body president!”), strikes me as a strategic misstep for, at best, the possible benefit of a tactical gain.
Voters like McKenna because he is smart, thoughtful and appears to be a fresh difference from the Republican Party of Ellen Craswell, Dino Rossi, and Mitt Romney. This ad failed to amplify those assets.
In the end, unaffiliated pollsters that happened to be in the field on both sides of McKenna’s first TV ad running said that his support dropped 4 points while Inslee’s support rose 8 as a result of this ad.
In other words, this ad was effective – but precisely in the opposite direction intended by the McKenna campaign. The results showed up on Primary Election night. You can view the ad below.
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