The State of the Political Industry

Article excerpt


Questions about the state of the professional political industry are best answered by leaving partisan politics out of the equation. So after an election cycle of monumental change across several of the industry's major disciplines, we decided to ask a series of political consultants to reach across the aisle and work with someone from the opposing party to assess where things stand in their particular sector of the business.

This issue, we feature pieces that focus attention on three sectors of the political industry that saw plenty of change in 2012- media, fundraising and phones. Each analysis is a joint effort- one Democratic consultant and one Republican consultant teamed up to pen each piece. In subsequent issues, bipartisan teams of consultant writers will examine mail, polling and technology, among other disciplines.

In the pages that follow, Democrat Ann Liston and Republican Scott Howell look at the challenges ahead for political media. Republican John Simms and Democrat Stu Trevelyan- two giants of the political fundraising worldexamine the coming fundraising arms race. And Democrat Marty Stone and Republican Matthew Parker explain why cellphones aren't the greatest threat facing the political phone industry.



Scott Howell is president of Scott Howell & Company, a Republican media consulting firm. Ann Liston is a partner at the Democratic media firm Adelstein Liston.

A billion dollars. That's how much was spent on television advertising in the 2012 presidential race- $197 million of it in Ohio alone. And, in case anyone didn't notice, there were a few other races on the ballot too.

To paraphrase the late Illinois Sen. Everett Dirksen, pretty soon, we're talking about real money.

In the post-Citizens United world, none of this came as a surprise. But as the noise of political advertising reaches deafening levels, the pressure mounts on media firms to find ways to pierce through and reach the elusive- and fractured- persuadable voter.

What does all this mean for the future of political advertising? Here's how we see it.

TV still rules the media world

"Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today." The old adage from America's first media consultant, Ben Franklin, has never been more apt for today's media landscape.

In the past, campaigns have waited until the final few weeks to take their message to the airwaves. But in the flood of advertising platforms, expect to see more and more candidates, especially incumbents, shift their ad buying earlier to define themselves and their opponent, beating other players to the punch.

The National Republican Congressional Committee was able to retain its majority this past cycle by employing early messaging as an integral part of it's strategy, defining incumbent Democrats in vulnerable seats while at the same time propping up many of their own seemingly vulnerable incumbents.

The same holds true in races like Tammy Baldwin's historic Senate win in Wisconsin. Super PACs affiliated with Democrats were defining Republican Tommy Thompson within hours of his primary win. And President Obama, of course, was defining Mitt Romney even before the first Republican primary ballot was cast.

Some who have surveyed the political media landscape are now putting forth the argument that television is dying, but we think it's clear that 2012 proved no one can write its eulogy just yet.

Broadcast television is still the only medium that reaches virtually every household in America, with unmatched audience sizes. Even in a DVR-driven world, industry studies show that only 13 percent of commercials in prime time are fast-forwarded, and a majority of people who watch recorded commercials in their entirety do so within three days of the original airdate. …