I kind of feel like news stories concerning the money that goes into the ad spending of presidential campaigns should be accompanied by a live video stream of a normal person reacting to it. For example, a recent report by Marty Swant in AdWeek lays out some basic facts about ad spending in the current election cycle. But, because of its non-editorial nature, the story lacks a certain amount of context, at least on the level of common sense.
I mean, whether you are a Republican or Democrat, the fact that the presidential candidates will, according to Swant, spend five-and-a-half billion American dollars on advertising this cycle is more than a little shocking. Which is why stories like the one in AdWeek should have a video window of an average person sighing, shaking their head, and being visibly dismayed about how little the donations or efforts of a normal person can mean in the face of unfettered campaign spending.
Let's really think about this: According to OpenSecrets.org's data on Donor Demographics, the percentage of people donating $200 or more to candidates, PACs, and parties is 0.23% percent of the population. But that tiny percentage makes up 66.6% of all donations. Basically, if you want to have any kind of attention, you better be ready and able to pony up the dough. (More information can be found on the Federal Election Commission website.)
Candidates are just now starting to make major ad buys in battleground states that amount to millions of dollars worth of ad saturation. The Jeb Bush campaign will spend $7.8 million in early voting states in the new year, with $1 million going to Iowa, $4.6 million to New Hampshire, and $2.2 million spent in South Carolina. And none of this includes SuperPAC spending.
Also interesting is the fact that, while our lives are increasingly mediated through digital means, television remains the primary means by which candidates get their messages out. Of the $5.5 billion being spent, $4.4 billion of it will be spent on television ads. Digital advertising continues to grow, but its effectiveness pales in comparison to the old standby of broadcast television.
And TV stations are particularly giddy about all the cash being thrown around. While television stations are prohibited by federal regulation from gouging campaigns for ads, the same does not hold true for SuperPACs, who may be charged up to ten times the going rate for candidates.
The monstrous size of all these numbers can be numbing to the average person, and further contribute to the growing disinterest Americans seem to have in the political process. When we consider the fact that trying to calculate what a $50 dollar donation (what an average person can probably afford) means compared to the total amount of money in presidential campaigns leads to the need for exponential notation, we shouldn't be surprised when an everyday person feels like their contributions are meaningless.