Millions of advertising dollars are spent each year targeting Congress. In Politico today (2/16/17), there are ads by the American Heart Association, AARP and the National Pork Producers Council, among others. And this is just the tip of the advertising iceberg. Just tune into Morning Joe or Meet the Press and watch bigger budget players. Or listen to WTOP during your morning commute.
Does advocacy advertising in Washington DC really reach Members of Congress? Does it have an impact? Is it worth the cost?
Subscribers to publications read by policy makers and consumers of digital news in CQ Roll Call, The Huffington Post and dozens of other media channels must wonder if all those big named corporations, trade associations and ad-hoc coalitions are getting a bang for their buck. Why not just send in the corporate lobbyists to twist arms?
Well, the answer is advertising works. Lobbyists can still do their twisting but they find policy makers more receptive when an issue is backed with advocacy advertising, grass roots campaigns, media relations, ally development and other sophisticated advocacy communication activities.
But, why paid advertising? I submit that there are four basic reasons why – get your message known, frame the debate, turn up the heat and target Members of Congress outside the beltway. It turns out that advertising is an efficient, direct and unfiltered way of accomplishing these four objectives.
Also, realize that watching television and listening to the radio are far from dead. Not even close. In a recent Nielsen Report “The Total Audience Report 2016”, we find that the average time spent per day watching television is 4 hours and 31 minutes, listening to the radio 1 hour and 52 minutes, and the combined use of a smart phone, tablet and PC is 1 hour and 48 minutes. True, this is all adults throughout all of the United States and policy makers are anything but average. Yet, the point is that while the use of print media has declined and been replaced by tablets and smartphones, we still love to watch our sports, reality TV shows and news show on television.
As a result, the smartest strategy is to take advantage of the surround sound, multiplier effect by advertising across many media platforms utilizing a multi-channel strategy. While digital advertising has seen explosive growth in recent years, it is still important to implement an advertising campaign in a well-rounded manner.