Standing out on TV: Why clutter may help

Democratic media consultant Joe Slade White says he’s not concerned about the amount of clutter already on the TV airwaves this cycle. At C&E’s annual Art of Political Campaigning seminar, we asked him how candidate campaigns can make sure they stand out this year.

C&E: Is it going to be tougher for candidates to stand out given the massive amount of TV ads that we're seeing in battleground states?

Joe Slade White: It's going to be incredibly cluttered, but I love clutter. I love people to be overwhelmed with that. In fact, if you do a really good ad in clutter it turns out to be even better. Clutter is going to force consultants to be simple and to be really good. If you're ad looks like every other political ad, you're just throwing your money away in a political environment because nobody is going to distinguish you. Simplicity will work in a cluttered environment.

C&E: Should down-ballot candidates be starting their TV ad campaigns earlier given that?

Joe Slade White: No. We've done a lot of down-ballot races for state officials—offices like attorney general or state superintendent of education. People are still making up their minds late. If you go up earlier and then are weak, you're never going to stand out. So it really is, again, that whole idea that we talked about with clutter.  If you do something powerful they will watch you, listen to you, and vote for you. That can be done in the last two weeks of a campaign. My experience has been that you can move people in down-ballot races in the last two weeks.

C&E: Any more of an opportunity to stand out with positive spots given all the negative we're already seeing on the airwaves this cycle?

Joe Slade White: Good negative will work, bad negative only works sometimes. Extraordinary positive will work too. I don't think I've changed or will change the negative and positive ad ratio in terms of what I'm doing. Really, understanding where it all fits hasn't changed and doesn't change in a crowded environment.  Consultants who say that are thinking to hard.

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