Lately I’ve gotten the impression -and maybe this is just me- that the McCain camp’s ads are getting a lot more attention than Obama’s lately. There’s more and more talk that McCain is taking the “low road“, but I’m beginning to wonder if this should really be considered the smart road. After all, as NewsBusters noticed, the latest McCain ad appeared to get a ton of air time on the blogs and CBS, NBC, ABC, etc. in the last 24 hrs., because someone decided that the ads themselves, along the accompanying reaction, was deemed newsworthy. As I read, I couldn’t help but think that McCain’s team had gotten a lot more exposure for their spots with all that than it actually paid for through regular time slots.
As it turns out, I’m not the only one to come to this conclusion, as memeorandum also has this up from the NYT: With Commercial, McCain Gets Much More Than His Money’s Worth
WASHINGTON — The number of times Senator John McCain’s new advertisement attacking Senator Barack Obama for canceling a visit with wounded troops in Germany last week has been shown fully or partly on local, national and cable newscasts: well into the hundreds.
The number of times that spot actually, truly ran as a paid commercial: roughly a dozen.
One has to wonder -or possibly even assume- that the media may be the unwitting participant in an a clever strategy. A plan that centers around churning out campaign ads that create a buzz not as a mistake made by a marketing team that is out of touch with what might cross lines, but as a critical part of the design. With such a concept, I suppose the balancing act involves crafting the ads in such a way that they don’t turn too many people off, while simultaneously creating the appropriate stir that results in all the free air time. Another possible danger would be that, once it gets to a certain point, there will be considerable debate between the camps and pundits alike over whether the whole fracas can be taken up with the FCC. After all, the networks were so worried about the “equal time” provisions that NBC actually considered make-up time for other GOP candidates to compensate for Fred Thompson’s appearance in Law and Order reruns. That dynamic would expose the transparency of the tactic to a wider audience than a single NYT post (and certainly this blog), and could work against McCain…assuming the Katie Couric’s out there can refrain from replaying the ads in question hundreds of times in the process.