Branding a Candidate: How Political Ads Can Shape an Election

by Belfort Group | Thought Leadership
October 31, 2014

If you’ve turned on your TV, opened a newspaper, or scrolled through social media news feeds, you’ve seen the numerous political ads telling you why – and in the case of anti-ads, why not – Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker are the best fit for Massachusetts’ next governor. Both candidates have endorsements from powerful Massachusetts influencers. Current Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick, has campaigned for Coakley and theBoston Globe announced its endorsement of Charlie Baker.

Just how important are these ads in influencing a political victory?

According to data from the Boston Globe, political ads are important. From the day after the primary election, September 10 through October 19, Charlie Baker and his supporters aired more than 3,700 individual spots on Massachusetts broadcast television, spending a total of $5 million. Over the same period, Martha Coakley and her supporters aired about 2,400 individual spots on broadcast television, spending $3.6 million.

But not all ad spots are created equal. Advertising time is generally more expensive the closer it gets to Election Day, and a single TV ad during a widely watched program such as a New England Patriots game or “American Horror Story” can create considerable traction.

What does this discrepancy indicate? It means Baker has had more success in fundraising, enabling him to afford even more ads, and in more sought after places. From September 16 through October 15, Baker and his running mate, Karyn Polito, raised a combined $1.6 million. Over the same period, Coakley and running mate Steve Kerrigan raised a combined $830,000. According to analysts, Charlie Baker has reached significantly more viewers than Coakley, a gap which can have meaningful implications come November 4. For the majority of Massachusetts residents that tune into politics in the month or two prior to Election Day, candidate visibility is key to success.

As of October 24, Baker held a 9-point lead over Coakley, 45 percent to 36 percent – a sharp move up from the 38 percent support he held in late August. According to Boston Globe pollster John Della Volpe, Baker’s growth came almost entirely from voters who have made up their minds since the beginning of September, when Baker’s political ads dominated the air.

So for those skeptical of the power of political advertising or critical of the money politicians are willing to spend on campaign ads, this is why: political ads work. We may not have the definitive statistics to tell us how influential they truly are, but election results do not lie.  While political ads should not be one’s sole source of candidate information, the best way to educate yourself is to get educated before Election Day. To learn more about Charlie Baker’s platform, click here. To learn more about Martha Coakley’s platform, click here.

Don’t forget to vote at your polling location on Tuesday, November 4.

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