Karl Rove’s Nightmare

The conventional wisdom is that Republican Super Pac money will overwhelm Democrats in the last six weeks of the fall election. This week Bernstein Research put out some data that lead me to believe that the returns to scale on TV advertising may actually be diminishing.

We believe it is not implausible that at some point, consumers will get so annoyed at having seen a commercial over-and-over again that there could actually be a negative impact. The logic being, consumers would attach negative feelings toward the brand (e.g. presidential candidate), instead of positive ones.

Here is how Bernstein charts it.

Bernstein calculates that in the battleground states 95% of the viewing public will see between 75 and 100 ads for Romney per week. Although classic marketing theory suggests that seeing more than three spots per week on a product produces diminishing results, we have never seen such “ultra-high frequency” in advertising.

Only time will tell if we have hit a wall on political TV advertising and Karl Rove’s grand scheme for buying the election fails.

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12 Responses to Karl Rove’s Nightmare

  1. len says:

    Time will tell indeed. But I think social media frequency is showing it’s power to compress broadcast media amplitude. It is a power that can and will cut many ways. A self-adaptive equalization system that scales is something new in politics and entertainment.

    We may need to retrain the pundits.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It is called over advertising to many impressions have the contrary effect.

  3. Anonymous says:

    People get jaded and bored.

  4. Andres says:

    It will also be difficult to discern wether the negative or diminishing returns have to do with over saturation or an often changing ideological/policy stance from the candidate and his confused surrogates – It will be interesting to see if this gets picked up on by the wonks on the opinion show circuit.

  5. Alex Bowles says:

    And now we know what they plan to do with all that money.


    Mitt Romney’s campaign has concluded that the 2012 election will not be decided by elusive, much-targeted undecided voters — but by the motivated partisans of the Republican base. This shifting campaign calculus has produced a split in Romney’s message. His talk show interviews and big ad buys continue to offer a straightforward economic focus aimed at traditional undecided voters. But out stumping day to day is a candidate who wants to talk about patriotism and God, and who is increasingly looking to connect with the right’s intense, personal dislike for President Barack Obama.

    Driven by greed, fueled by hate. Lovely.

  6. len says:

    If you troll the backwaters of Facebook, you will find examples of the hysterical right piling on targets of their scorn. In one, Katie Couric’s talk show is mentioned by a closet container store that did the organizing for her dressing room. A group of women shoppers pounded the show and said they would not watch because of her “over liberal ideas”. The ferocity of it was surprising. It had the same feel as the protests in the middle east except these are the women who embrace Ayn Rand and Jesus in the same muddled mix of suppressed sexuality and overt materialism.

    So yes they will try to get the base out and they will succeed at that just as they did with Chik Fil A. It is a season of ideological purity. Again, it is the post-election effects that concern me. It is an orc army and when they lose, that’s a lot of very committed angry people looking for something to smash.

  7. len says:

    Is the effect cited content-neutral? IOW, will the same jaded or boredom cause a negative reaction to the candidate/brand if the content is negatively reinforcing or positively reinforcing?

    JTMc’s references to homeostasis set me to thinking about the behavioral driving coupling to cortisol levels in self-identifying populations. Group stress and group mania may create cohesive response. In short, the mideast riots are in one point of view healthy for populations that haven’t been able to go out and scream and be physical for years. On the other hand, that same behavior among groups that are sexually suppressed and physicall inactive may not be that healthy.

    Cortisol is related to burnout. If the content makes a difference and the right has taken the negative path and stimulated them too many times, then the Obama bounce and Romney flatline indeed do have much to do with the mood being reinforced at this time and it depends on the mood shift between now and the election as to which base feels “good” about going to vote, which are so “mad” they feel they must vote and which feel “bad” and stay home in a funk.

    Distributions correlated to obesity, insulin resistance and depression would be interesting as the ad campaigns roll out. This election may come down to the campaign strategy for stress management.

  8. Alex Bowles says:

    I suspect the folks at Romney HQ could do with some stress management of their own. Today really, really wasn’t a good day.

  9. len says:

    True dat. He had his “guns and bibles” moment of infamy.

    Is it still a mystery that every mutha’s baby has a cell phone with a pretty good video camera? A friend who worked in the WH told me they would cover their mouths like the mob because of high powered lenses and mics. You can’t tell me no one on Romney’s staff has explained to him that unless he is in the bathroom in his own house, he is ALWAYS on.

    The scary thing is just as they did with Obama, his base will agree with him.

  10. Alex Bowles says:

    The comparison between these two moments is superficial, at best. Here’s what Obama actually said in response to guns and Bibles blow-up:

    I was in San Francisco talking to a group at a fundraiser, and somebody asked how, well, how are you going to get votes in Pennsylvania? What’s going on there? We hear that it’s hard for working class people to get behind your campaign. Why is that? I said, well, look, they’re frustrated. And for good reason. Because for the last 25 years, they’ve seen jobs shipped overseas, they’ve seen their economies collapse. They’ve lost their jobs, they’ve lost their pensions, they’ve lost their healthcare, and for 25, 30 years, Democrats and Republicans have said we’re going to make your community better. We’re going to make it right. And nothing ever happens. And of course they’re bitter and of course they’re frustrated. You would be too and in fact, many of you are. Because the same thing happened here in Indiana, the same thing happened across the border in Decatur, the same thing is happening all across the country. Nobody is looking out for you , nobody is thinking about you. And so people end up – they don’t vote on economic issues because they don’t expect anybody is going to help them. And so they end up voting on issues like guns and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage and they take refuge in their faith and their community and their families and the things they can count on. But they don’t believe they can count on Washington. So I made this statement – here’s what’s rich. Senator Clinton says, well, I don’t think people are bitter in Pennsylvania. I think Barack’s being condescending. John McCain says, oh, how can he say that, how can he say that people are bitter. He obviously is out of touch with people.

    Out of touch? Out of touch? John McCain, it took him 3 tries to finally figure out that the home foreclosure crisis was a problem and to come up with a plan for it, and he’s saying I’m out of touch? Senator – Senator Clinton voted for credit card sponsored bankruptcy bill that made it harder for people to get out of debt after taking money from the financial services companies, and she says I’m out of touch? No, I’m in touch. I know exactly what’s going on. I know what’s going on in Pennsylvania, I know what’s going on in Indiana, I know what’s going on in Illinois. People are fed up. They are angry and they are frustrated and they are bitter they want to see a change in Washington. And that’s why I am running for President of the United States of America.

    In short, he was pushing back against distorted spin. Contrast that with the GOP’s response, which was to say that actually, Romney was on message and can only be faulted for a ‘lack of elegance’ (as if there’s a more graceful way to say you view half the country with profound contempt).

    Getting past the unfortunate line that got Obama is hot water, you see genuine compassion and decency. Beneath Romney’s remarks, on the other hand, you find something truly pernicious.

  11. JTMcPhee says:

    @Alex Bowles
    On the other hand, there’s scant evidence that BO, despite his claimed knowledge of what’s exactly going on, is doing dang-all squat to move the machinery in a way that would reduce the “frustrations” of the people who were willing to buy the Red’s fake restatement of his guns-and-bibles moment. I ain’t gonna take the time to recite the whole litany, but wars of choice expanding constantly to cover the whole planet and outer space, change only for the worse in the “financial sector,” failure to use that bully pulpit, boosting coal and shale tar and fracking, all kinds of stuff that his spin team has “justifications” to excuse and “justify.”

    And yes, that post-national cretin with the ridiculous and apt soubriquet “Mitt” and the gang who would descend on our Imperial Capital to complete the spoliation that floods out from the Spoils System would be a whole lot worse. No excuse.

  12. len says:

    Coupled to Ann’s remarks about “you people”, it tends to reinforce the elitist image. Romney asked for the entire text for context which Mother Jones says they will release according to the news I heard running out the door this morning.

    Let’s see what the day brings.

    Obama’s Risk is he is in a bubble of feel-good created by other speakers and testimonials. He will have to leave the bubble soon and wave his own wand over Dorothy if he is to keep his likbability ratings up. Mitt may get an underdog bounce but if he fumbles in the debates, this season’s passion play is over, the curtain falls and we have to get back out on the road in a blizzard of real challenges falling from the sky.

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