It is being reported that the presidential campaign of Barack Obama has purchased 30 minutes of primetime airtime to air a special at 8 pm Eastern and Pacific. Obama is also talking to NBC and Fox about buying airtime. The question is, is this a good idea?
The Live Feed is also reporting that NBC is close to a deal with Obama for the same date and time as CBS, and the only thing stopping Fox from making the deal is that the date and time Obama wants might conflict with Game 6 of the World Series. For the first time in the three election cycles, both candidates are buying network airtime. The difference between Obama and McCain is that Obama can afford to make such an expensive purchase because of his vast fundraising network.
At one time these kinds of programs were common place in presidential campaign politics. For example, John F. Kennedy bought network TV time first at the state level the night before the Democratic primary in West Virginia, and also before the general election. The most recent candidate to do this was Ross Perot in 1992, but Obama’s 30 minute special about a week before the general election is likely to be used deliver a pitch on the economy and the need for change.
If Obama lands on 3 of the 4 television networks in primetime with the ability to shape and deliver his message, this could be used to close the deal with American voters. The Obama camp knows that McCain can’t afford to match this buy, so in essence, Obama will get to talk to America unopposed. This is why the Obama campaign has been working so hard to raise money, because McCain is already running out of cash, and he will probably have to rely on the ads that have already been purchased in swing states and free media to get him over the finish line.
The Obama media strategy has been much different from recent campaigns. Instead of running a strictly targeted campaign that is based on local and cable markets, the Democrat has been able to run a dual level campaign that targets local and cable stations in swing states along with a national element such as this 30 minute special. I live in Pennsylvania, and I get tons email from the candidates, but the other day was the first time that I have received a piece of direct mail.
It is interesting that a campaign that is so 21st Century focused with their media would use a tactic from the past such as the network primetime media buy. This is a completely low risk move. At best, it helps Obama get his message out during his last push before the election. At worst, people will ignore it and watch something else. My guess is that people are so locked into this election, that they will watch, but if the stock market keeps tanking, Obama may have this race locked before the special airs.