welcome to On politics. I’m Nick Corasaniti, your host on Tuesdays for all media and messaging coverage. I’m writing from Philadelphia, where I moved for the rest of the race and where I fed heavily on the real Philadelphia sandwich: roast pork, provolone, and broccoli rabe!
The warning was familiar to all Pennsylvania voters who suffered a commercial break this fall – “I’m Joe Biden, and I approve of this message” – but the publicity that preceded it did not take hold. view of President Trump’s leadership, nor did he offer any testimony to the good faith of Mr. Biden’s middle class.
Instead, a blue outline of the state of Pennsylvania appeared on screen, and a narrator calmly explained the importance of making sure anyone voting by mail correctly uses the secret envelope.
With just one week of the end of a multibillion-dollar political advertising season, campaigns have started using their paid media operations to boost their voting efforts. Like so many others in 2020, it’s a change from the norm: Traditionally, campaigns have relied on their field teams on the ground, not their TV commercials, to try to get voters to the polls. .
But a few unique elements of this election make advertising for the vote a necessary expense. First and foremost, in the midst of a pandemic, operations on the ground cannot knock on doors and provide rides to polling places on the scale needed for a modern campaign.
And with the electorate increasingly polarized, all the closing ads aimed at persuading undecided voters are fighting for a relatively small audience.
“There just aren’t that many compelling targets,” said Michael Beach, a Republican advertising strategist. “Even in television commercials, early voting was mentioned in many of these commercials, and traditionally it would not have been.”
With so many people voting by mail this year, campaigns have new opportunities to keep tabs on voters throughout stages of the process – by sending voters targeted ads encouraging them to request ballots, then sending them back. encouraging the return of these ballots.
Most “chase” programs, as they are called, are run online, often through Facebook. Because many states offer data on who requested and returned a ballot, campaigns can target ads directly to those voters on Facebook. Once a voter returns a ballot, campaigns can remove that person from their target list and not waste money on a vote already cast.
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“We can target you every step of the way,” Richard Walters, the Republican National Committee chief of staff, told me earlier this month. “We know when you requested the ballot and we know that we must continue to follow you until your ballot is returned and until we can see that it has been returned. “
Digital ballot hunting programs, while not entirely new, are significantly expanded during this electoral cycle. The Trump and Biden campaigns contain dozens of advertisements asking voters to “Secure Your Ballot Safe Today!” and warning that “time is running out to return your ballot!” (The Biden campaign even highlighted its pursuit agenda in a fundraising speech.)
While TV ads cannot be targeted with the same precision, there have been advances in data analysis that have allowed for more targeted presentations. Mr Beach, through his company Cross Screen Media, has compiled lists of probable early voters and swing voters in three major markets in Battlefield State: Detroit, Phoenix and Charlotte, North Carolina His team found that early voters tended to be older and watch cable and local news a lot, which are traditionally more expensive political advertising spaces.
But when the public believed to have voted early was taken off the lists, the landscape changed dramatically: ESPN, E! and Comedy Central became the most popular channel among swing voters in those three markets who had probably not yet voted.
So, perhaps “SportsCenter” viewers can expect to see more ads with state-specific voting instructions. But the most traditional advertising wars do not give up. The television in the background of my Philadelphia apartment just sounded that Mr. Biden “would be a president for all Americans” as I wrote that last sentence.
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Ad of the week: Tough guy
There are few characteristics more important to Mr. Trump than maintaining an appearance of tenacity. The Biden campaign has brought in Dave Bautista, the 6-foot-6 former professional wrestler turned Hollywood actor, to cut that narrative in a new commercial.
The message: Mr. Bautista opens the ad with a flex and a shout. Then he makes a distinction between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden: “It’s easy to lie to people; it’s easy to intimidate people, ”he says. “That doesn’t make you a badass. It’s easy to tell someone what they want to hear. It’s not easy to tell someone what they need to hear.
As a map shows an increase in coronavirus cases across the country, Mr Bautista says what America needs is “someone who’s going to have a plan so that we can get back on track. rails”. The announcement ends with Mr. Bautista’s return to the concept of harshness, praising Mr. Biden as a leader who “returns in this fight for the Americans.”
Takeaway meals: Professional wrestling is a popular form of entertainment among white males, a constituency in which Mr. Biden constantly follows Mr. Trump, and a testimonial from one of World Wrestling Entertainment’s legends is clearly aimed at this audience. But the announcement also comes as the Biden campaign avoids emphasizing negative posts, with 40% of its ads being entirely positive.
Mr. Bautista’s early criticism, cutting off Mr. Trump’s proud assertions of tenacity, borrows a little from previous negative advertisements from groups like the Lincoln Project that both criticized the president and sought to get under his skin.
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