Advertising & Politics

A former US Vice President has said that finding cash to fund TV ads is “the only thing that matters in American politics now”.

Speaking at the Edinburgh TV festival recently, Al Gore discussed the inherent (and worrying) link between party finance and electoral success.

He said: “Two days ago, I was at an event helping to raise money for a candidate of my political party, running for governor in one of our most populous states.

When asked: ‘What percentage of your campaign budget, between now and election day in November, will be spent on television commercials?’, the answer was 80%, he told an audience of several hundred media industry figures on the final day of the festival.

“In my country, the average American watches television for four hours and 39 minutes a day. Astonishing, really.”

“That’s why candidates spend 80% of their money on advertising campaigns.”

He also went on to discuss how advertising couldn’t possibly serve to give a true representation of policy, it could only merely appeal at a superficial level by using ‘classic’ advertising tricks and techniques.

This is an interesting point: can an ad (in any iteration) ever give a proper and meaningful articulation of policy? When a polictal party has cash to spend, is the objective not to achieve the best ROI possible – ie. gain votes? The quickest way to do this is inevitably to stick out bold, evocative headlines (just ask Saatchi) or quirky, impactful visuals (just ask Beattie).

How would an explosion of polictial advertising affect the UK political system? Does advertising serve to dumb-down politics? Or is this all an inherent consequence of democracy?


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