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Does Advertising Matter?

Does advertising matter?  Just ask the Obama campaign.

A Washington Post article yesterday suggested both that John McCain's negative ads had been ineffective (true) and that advertising in the Presidential contest just wasn't all that important:

"As the presidential candidates open their war chests in the campaign's final stretch -- spending a combined $28 million on television ads in the week that ended Oct. 4 -- political pros are mixed on whether they're getting their money's worth. Obama, who faces no fundraising restrictions because he declined to accept public financing, is outspending the senator from Arizona on the air by a 2 to 1 margin.

"But some analysts say neither side's spots are changing the campaign dialogue. This has been particularly true, analysts say, during the recent financial crisis that has at times overwhelmed the campaign itself."

But as The Politico points out today, someone forgot to tell the Obama campaign that the ads aren't having an impact:

"In the first three weeks of September, Barack Obama ran 1,342 television commercials in the Washington media market that reaches heavily populated and contested Northern Virginia.

"According to The Nielsen Company, in the same period and market, John McCain aired just eight commercials on broadcast stations."

Advertising may matter less on the Presidential level than it does for House and Senate candidates, who receive considerably less attention in the press than Presidential candidates do.  But make no mistake -- all the wonderful bio ads that the Obama campaign has been running have had an impact by allowing the campaign to impart critical information about their candidate that voters would not now otherwise be hearing or seeing.

In effect, the Obama campaign's financial advantage allows it to have a separate, independent, and critically important conversation with the American public about a topic of their choosing.

Senator McCain's ads may have been ineffective -- but that doesn't mean Senator Obama's have been too.

Howard Wolfson also blogs at GothamAcme.