Voters to Pols: TV Attack Ads Are Soooooo 2008

Negative election season ads are about as American as Ford trucks. We don’t necessarily like it when politicians interrupt our favorite sitcoms and sporting events with inflammatory messages, but we seem to accept the fact that it’s going to happen every other November, right? Well, maybe not.

The 2012 election will be the most expensive in history. By the time it’s through, an estimated $6 billion will be spent on various PR efforts by presidential and congressional candidates, and most of that money will go to buying time for TV ads. The problem? Fewer and fewer Americans are actually paying attention.

According to a Say Media study covered in Ad Week, the number of potential voters who watch live TV is steadily decreasing as more consumers watch video on their own time via DVR and streaming services. This trend only heightens the challenges for political PR teams desperate to reach undecided voters (is there really such a thing?).

Gee, we can’t imagine why Americans would get sick of commercials like this one:

Or this one:

Everybody likes a feel-good story, right? Right? Is anyone listening?

Does this trend mean we’ll see fewer campaign ads in the future? Hardly. Americans overwhelmingly say they don’t like attack ads, but repeated studies show that the very same spots prompt many to spend more time researching individual candidates–which is exactly what their teams want us to do.

Now for the key question: How will political PR operations change in the future as more and more members of the target audience move “off the grid?”