Just Asking: What Impact Did Ads Have on the Election?

We asked agency, client and media executives, “What impact did political advertising have on the outcome of the election?”

“Obama’s use of online was the best I’ve ever seen. Made all the difference.
I suggested that everyone at Via donate to the campaign just so they could be on the receiving end of brilliant marketing.” — John Coleman, CEO, Via

“It was the burger wars all over again, with Burger King (McCain) setting its sights on McDonald’s, and McDonald’s (Obama) setting its sights on the future. Negative vs. aspirational. We all know who wins that contest.” — Bruce Lev, Director, Creative Services, LevLane

“[Advertising played] too much [of a part]. Always does. I’m just  glad America realized that negative advertising can in fact go too far.” — George Feinn, copywriter, ML Rogers

“I think political advertising served as a neutralizer in this campaign. Obama out-advertised McCain by a huge amount, but he needed to do that to both introduce himself and to help neutralize McCain’s spots which were, in the vast majority of cases, negative. In the end the general mood of the country trumped the historic power of advertising.” — John Dukakis, svp, branded entertainment, Hill, Holliday (son of 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Mike Dukakis)

“The ads themselves may not have had an impact, but the branding (or lack thereof) of the candidates did.  Obama was the consistent ‘agent of change;’ McCain was the ‘country-first, Joe-the-war-hero, bipartisan maverick who’s ready to lead and isn’t a Socialist’ candidate. The difference showed in the polls.”  — Steve Wolfberg, president, CCO, Cronin and Co.

“I think we saw the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good: Obama taught all marketers that the Web and social media can mobilize, unite and motivate huge audiences. The bad: Negative advertising is effective at winning campaigns, and it seems that there is no ‘high road.’ The ugly: Political advertising showcased all the negative perceptions of our profession — deception, lies, and empty promises. When did telling the truth become un-PC?” — Harry Chapin, partner, Forge Worldwide