Election Advertising on Overdrive

We hear it every year: “This election year will be like like no other.” Often times it is just hyperbole, but this year, it’s not.

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United Ruling that lifted the ban on corporate giving and now their more recent ruling striking down public matching funds in Arizona. We only saw the tip of the iceberg last election, but for this cycle the lawyers, the media teams, companies and advertisers have all figured out the new rules.

Yes, much has and will be written about the consequences these decisions will ultimately have on our democracy, but what can the average person who actually has to live through this change expect?

Way more (and I mean way, way more) political advertising. Tired of political ads? Well, you haven’t seen anything yet. The amount of money flowing into campaigns this year will be incredible. When it is all said and done, we may not even really know how much was spent or from where. That means you are about to be bombarded with ads at new incredible levels. They will come over and over and over from all mediums — online, TV, radio, direct mail, robocalls, and the most obscure places imaginable. The ads will be earlier, too. Local TV news and print newspapers might just survive an extra couple years after this boon of money, especially as political advertisers still lag behind in how far they skew toward TV ads.

Excuse me, Mr. Volunteer, but is that $20 in your pocket?” You won’t know if the volunteer at your door is really a volunteer or a temp being paid to canvass. Same goes with those signature gatherers and sign holders. Is that supporter online paid or not paid? What is the result of passion and what is cold hard cash? It’ll be hard to tell.

The conflicted meta conversation of the Democrats. The Democrats and their base supporters hate these rulings. Thus, as the campaign moves along, you’ll see the Democrats have one of those conflicted conversations they have only with themselves. First, they will continue to scold the ruling: “The corporate money is bad for our Democracy.” Next, they will blame it: “The Republicans are ahead because they are willing to sell our Democracy to corporations, not because they are right.” Finally, some will succumb to it, especially those in tight elections: “It’s not that I agree with it, but we have to level the playing field so we can win and change it.”

Of course, most voters will have no idea what Democrats are talking about, and if they do, they probably will not care. As a result, the Republicans will have that much more of an opportunity to have a conversation about the issues those voters do vote on — you know, like the economy and jobs?

In the end, I’m not sure how voters are supposed to cope or work with this mess, but hey, maybe someone can make a buck with a business that does just that. In this type of environment, a ton of people would probably give 5-10 bucks just to be left alone.

Marquee image via iStockphoto/Korhankaracan