There are many different options when it comes to political campaign advertising, and newspaper ads are probably among the least effective ways to spend your money–especially in higher-profile races.
It’s true that the average newspaper reader is more likely to vote than someone who doesn’t keep up with the news, which makes political campaign print ads a more effective buy than billboards. But newspaper ads have many of the same problems that campaign billboards have: namely, you’re paying to put your message in front of a lot of people who will never have the opportunity to vote for you in the first place.
Remember: you just can’t beat a good targeted direct mail campaign for laser-focusing your political candidate message to the right people. By spending the same amount of money on direct mail that you would spend on a print newspaper ad, your efforts will be many times more effective.
The problem with newspaper ads is that they are appealing to many local political candidates for the same reason that billboards are. I like to call it the “look, it’s me!” effect. Seeing your name and photo in a newspaper makes you feel good as a political campaign candidate, and makes you feel like your accomplishing something.
Unfortunately, feeling good about your campaign doesn’t win a local election; sound political strategy does.
Don’t get me wrong–if you’re a candidate running in a local election, there’s nothing wrong with buying a few column inches in the local newspaper for some advertising in the final weeks of the campaign. In fact, if you’ve done a good job of paying adequate attention to grassroots efforts, door-to-door campaigning, direct mail and other essentials, newspaper ads are a legitimate way to spend any extra cash you might have on hand.
But spending a significant chunk of your campaign money on newspaper ads isn’t something I endorse as smart political strategy. Sure, there are plenty of comfortable, shoo-in incumbent politicians who always blow a big wad of cash on newspaper ads, but they win their elections in spite of this strategy, not because of it.
And a word to the wise: this advice goes for newspaper website banner ads, as well. These Internet newspaper ads might be cheaper than their print counterparts, but it’s still not a wise way to spend your campaign money. (If you do decide to drop some funds on a newspaper website ad, make sure that it at least links back to your political campaign website or your Facebook Fan Page.)
Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with devoting a small percentage of your political campaign money to buying newspaper ads. Just don’t go overboard with it, and make sure the vast majority of your cash goes toward more effective advertising options, like direct mail or door cards.
As the print industry continues to lose its readership and smaller local newspapers start going out of business, the appeal of paper ads will inevitably drop even further in the coming decade.