Record spending on political ads this year

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By Josh Sidorowicz

This year alone experts estimate nearly $4 billion dollars will be spent on election advertisements.

That’s almost eight times more than what was spent on political advertising in the last presidential election in 2008, according to Bob Kolt, an instructor in MSU’s advertising and public relations department.

“I think we’re going to continue to see spending escalate,” Kolt said. “We haven’t seen anything quite like this before, there’s just a barrage of ads.”

Kolt said political advertising is especially heating up in some of the key battleground states like Ohio. However, voters in Michigan haven’t had to endure the same onslaught of advertisements.

“We haven’t see some of the best ads [in Michigan] because I don’t think it turned out to be as hotly contested as they thought for Romney,” he said.

But while Michigan isn’t the battleground state it was once thought to be, student voters say they’re still getting discouraged and even annoyed by the usual blitz of political advertising.

“I definitely find [the ads] annoying and at this point I don’t believe either side,
said Civanna Siavatta, an undergraduate student at MSU.

“I never take them at face value because I just don’t believe them.”

Siavatta said she is especially turned off by the advertisements that take on a more negative tone and approach.

“While it’s become normal, I wouldn’t expect anything less, it is the presidential campaign and people get nasty,” she said. “I just try to stay away from those ads as much as possible and try not to take any of them too seriously.”

Communications senior Erin Miner said she agrees the negative ads can be off-putting, but overall feels they do serve a purpose.

“I think political ads are important, because yeah they might be negative or even untrue, but they get people talking and involved with politics and that’s a good thing,” Miner said.

“People get upset but that also means people are getting engaged and political ads are something that nearly everyone sees.”

Kolt said political advertisements usually follow a predictable pattern in their style, tone and the messages they aim to convey toward voters.

“In every election cycle you usually start off with a positive biographical ad which is followed by an issues ad explaining a candidates position,” Kolt said.

“The third wave is usually a comparison ad showing how a candidate differs from an opponent and then finally you get into ads where candidates highlight their opponents and how they’re not qualified.”

Kolt said those later ads are usually the ones that take on a more negative tone. He estimates that during a given election season around 70 percent of the advertisements are negative, while 30 percent are positive in tone.

However, Kolt is also quick to point out that negative ads in politics are far from a new phenomenon.

“We have a long and proud history in this country of long, negative campaigns and not telling the truth,” he said.

“But the problem is that those types of ads are effective and if it didn’t work people wouldn’t be doing them.”

Students like Siavatta and Miner agree the negative advertisements are a necessary evil and they also agree they’ve noticed more political advertising through less traditional outlets.”

“You saw it in 2008 with Obama and it’s continued with this election that candidates are doing more online to target voters,” Miner said. “It’s probably a little more effective because people spend a ton of time online and you can get more information than in a short commercial.”

Kolt said candidates are using the Internet for more long-form and creative advertisements.

Bridgette Mary McCormack, a judicial candidate for the Michigan Supreme Court, recently compiled nearly the entire cast of the former television series the West Wing for a reunion, which also doubled as a political ad.


Kolt said that’s only just the beginning and to expect more approaches like that to campaign ads in future elections.

“Candidates continue to have more messages to get out to voters and will continue to have more outlets and platforms to get those messages out,” he said.

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