Advertising and Cost


Let us assume that the volume of advertisements help potential politicians win an election.  At what period of human existence would campaign finance restriction be an effective way to “level the playing field”?

Certainly, political advertising two thousand years ago was not all that expensive. This caricature, drawn on a wall in Pompeii, would cost more time than money. Then again, holding a large banquet or putting on a show was quite expensive.  However, this was typically the role of the politician – not the candidates – and was often seen as an obligation rather than a political opportunity.

In many ways, it seems like campaign finance laws are last century’s battle. It is undoubtedly expensive to advertise in National newspapers and on television. But newspaper subscriptions are declining, and many are downloading television shows in order to avoid advertisements.  The cost of advertising seem to me to be declining rapidly, in which case it is difficult to maintain that there’s a barrier faced by certain political parties. Set up a blog, have a weekly podcast, register on facebook and twitter.

Equally, the idea that the influence of money can “drown out” other messages is nonsensical. The diversity of media available is enormous, and people tend to self-select in terms of what messages they are exposed to.


One Response to “Advertising and Cost”

  1. Michael Appleton Says:

    Amen to the general thought, Stephen. One reason I am much less exercised by liberal campaign finance laws than I was, say, ten years ago is precisely the one you identify: there are now many more, and very cheap, mechanisms for getting your message out.

    But it does still seem to me that many (probably most?) people get their political information/news during an election campaign not from reading blogs like this one, or following some politician’s twitter feed, or friending John Key on Facebook – but by watching the TV news and the ads during it, reading the newspaper and browsing the display ads, glancing at billboards as they drive to work and so on. Its not clear to me that the new media technologies of which you speak have (yet) made obsolescent the older forms of campaign spending. Perhaps in another ten?

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