The enduring power of television in politics is partly due to the little-known fee structure under which media consultants in both parties have been traditionally paid: They receive as much as 10 percent to 15 percent of the total ad buy as their commission. True, in recent years, some frugal and smart campaigns have demanded that their media consultants work for a flat fee like pollsters. But whatever the details (and they are almost impossible to decipher from candidate filings to the Federal Election Commission), this antiquated payment formula for media consultants guarantees heavy pressure to spend virtually the entire campaign budget on television.
But there is another intriguing reason why campaign tactics in both parties are about as creative and innovative as those employed by the French general staff during World War II. No major candidate is willing to risk his or her political future on untried campaign plans built around embracing new media and playing down TV spots. With a Senate seat or a governorship at stake, the political herd instinct is as powerful as it is debilitating. So every campaign resembles every other campaign with cookie-cutter ads since the creative potential of 30-second spots was exhausted decades ago.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
At Politics Daily, Walter Shapiro has some shrewd observations about the continued dominance of TV ads in state and national races: