Dear Dr. Bob,
I’m running for the state Senate and my campaign manager tells me I need to buy TV commercials in prime time shows like “Dancing with the Stars.” They cost a fortune to buy and producing a commercial that won’t be embarrassing isn’t cheap either. I’m raising money pretty well, but I don’t want to waste it. What should I do?
TV Shy in Phoenix
Dear TV Shy,
First thing to do is get rid of your campaign manager. He’s either an idiot or running some sort of scam. Either way running TV spots in prime time is going to cost you a fortune…and it’ll be a waste of money. Think of it this way: When you buy a TV spot in prime time, you’ll reach voters in your district, but you’ll be paying for reaching everyone outside of your district. And even if going on TV was a good idea, putting down good money to have your face show up on “Dancing with the Stars” is just disgusting.
All of that said, there is a way for smaller campaigns to use TV: buy Cable. Cable TV operators now have the capability of zeroing in on target groups within legislative districts on down to neighborhood blocks. Check with Cox Cable to get more information.
As for spending a fortune to create a good TV spot, that’s a myth perpetuated by many of my fellow media consultants. They know that creating TV spots might as well be a ‘black box’ to most people and can charge accordingly. If you’re going to do TV, you should be able to get a good, solid :30 spot for about $1,000 – $2,000 depending on how fancy you want to get.
One final thought: Try to think of how you spend money on voter communication the same way you can shop at a grocery store. When you’re looking for coffee you can compare brands by their price or you can look down to the “unit price” on the store’s tag. Its not unusual to find what looks like a good deal really costs more when broken down into units like per pound, per serving, etc. For political campaigns, think about the cost comparisons and unit costs across things like direct mail, telephone calls, signs, door-to-door literature drops, etc. At the end of the day you want to keep your cost-per-vote down to something that is financially manageable without taking out a second mortgage.