Donald Trump Didn’t Kill Political Advertising

What worked for him—social media and free media coverage of his rallies—won’t work for most candidates, especially in next year’s midterms

On December 23, 2015, in the middle of her “Christmas Eve eve” broadcast, Rachel Maddow took stock of an apparent shift in American politics. “This year, for whatever reason, ads basically don’t work. Spending lots of money on ads doesn’t seem to have an effect on the polls,” the MSNBC host said, referring to the Republican presidential primary underway. “Donald Trump has spent less ad money than any other significant candidate. He spent, I think, zero dollars on TV ads specifically.” And yet, Trump was leading the polls. Jeb Bush had spent more than $35 million. “For his troubles, he is 3 percent in the polls.” Maddow rounded up her favorite ads of the cycle thus far, and concluded the segment by saying, “We are still good at telling these stories about American politics, and that is something. And someday it will matter again.”

The idea that campaign ads didn’t matter—or didn’t work, anyway—had surfaced early in the race. “The most conspicuous truism that Trump has smashed to bits,” The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove wrote a couple weeks before Maddow’s broadcast, “is that whoever outspends his competitors on media consultants for brilliantly persuasive television commercials, and the savvy purchase of advertising time, also possesses an intimidating edge.” The following month, Paul Waldman at The Week calledTV ads “less important than ever,” concluding that “this election must surely make TV advertising a less appealing tool.”


Read the entire article in New Republic



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