As we have discussed in class recently, the evolution of digital media and marketing techniques have changed the face of election campaigns, and they might even make it easier for minority parties to build a broader base of support.
But part of this “digital revolution” might actually be working against politicians’ campaigns. According to a recent New York Times article, campaign strategists have struggled to contact voters, as many more Americans are no longer watching TV ads and instead watching shows and movies online, making the once-popular TV ad format a less popular ad platform. Some estimates report that TV ads in some states are going unseen by up to one-third of voters.
|An example of a Mitt Romney ad selectively placed on a YouTube page.|
Candidates, however, have been creative in responding to this issue, and are starting to use the Web as a “political persuasion tool,” employing audience analytics companies to create targeted online ads and to monitor their effectiveness. These techniques outrage many voters, but for the majority of voters, who are likely complacent with the new ads, these tactics likely mean that campaign ads will be increasingly prevalent.
Personally, the emergence of these creative voter-targeting techniques brings up an interesting question about the connection between campaign advertising and voter turnout. Some evidence suggests that campaign ads—especially negative ones—increase voter turnout. If we are to accept this fact with the thesis that the voter electorate is increasingly centrist (although political parties have become more polarized), then any measures to increase voter turnout may force politicians to be more centrist. This thesis seems to suggest that increasing campaign advertising via creative means, such as targeted digital marketing, might actually be a way to reduce political gridlock. This hypothesis is largely based on the assumption that the positive effects campaign ads have on voter turnout is not outweighed by the “polarized hype” that negative ads can create.
What does everyone else think? Are new marketing strategies enhancing polarization, since many ads are increasingly negative? Or are these campaign ads going to increase voter turnout, thereby increasing centrism?