The debate among communications pros will likely never end. Is advertising superior to editorial coverage?
Ad agency folks will tell you that with an ongoing, coordinated advertising campaign ($$$) they can get people to buy virtually any product or service. On the other hand, public relations professionals will tell you editorial coverage (along with free social media) will influence people’s views far more effectively than paid ads. Some will say editorial coverage alone is valued at 8-10 times more than an ad.
In an ideal communications world, the combination of advertising AND editorial is hugely effective. However, due to marketing budget concerns people often pick one or the other.
If you want to see the effectiveness of one concept or the other simply look at the Presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. National Public Radio noted today that Clinton had run more than 30,000 campaign ads against Trump since she was declared the winner of the primary. Trump spent virtually nothing.
In May, Clinton reported a campaign money chest—including Super PACs—of $103.4 million. Trump was at $21.7 million. While the old adage that advertising and editorial departments are separate entities, every journalist in American knows that Clinton’s ad spending benefits them and their livelihood.
If advertising is so effective how can the two candidates be in a virtual dead heat today?
“The July 18-22 national online poll found that 41 percent of likely voters supported Clinton, while 38 percent supported Trump,” noted Reuter’s. “Given the poll’s credibility interval of about 4 percentage points, Trump and Clinton should be considered to be about even in the race.”
What is ironic is that although Trump had received nearly $2 billion in “free” advertising by the news media dating back to March, the vast majority of it has been negative. Never has a presidential candidate been as brutalized by the news media. When the dust clears he likely will not receive any newspaper endorsements for his candidacy. It doesn’t seem to matter to voters.
As an example, the Sunday New York Times (7/24/16) in its “Review” section featured a huge, very flattering picture colored drawing of Hillary Clinton along with a puff piece on her. Trump’s stories? Negative quotes from the Convention, “Donald Trump’s Sham Patriotism,” “Marrying Melanias, Raising Ivankas,” “Is He A Racist?” “Donald Trump’s Disturbia” and “The Donald Trump Show.” It was highlighted by an editorial piece titled “Trumpworld vs. Clintonworld” that all but formally endorsed Clinton.
The question today is “How is it possible this race could even be close?” Yes, we have preached over the years that editorial coverage is extremely valuable, but we were always talking about POSITIVE editorial coverage. Trump’s negative coverage is unprecedented.
The only answer might be that today the public has so little confidence in the news media’s reporting that it really doesn’t care what “journalists” say. The public knows the term “unbiased media” is an oxymoron. Huge media conglomerates managed 90% of the print media in the U.S. today.
Huge media conglomerates managed 90% of the print media in the U.S. today. In fact, Time Warner ($28 billion) is the 7th largest contributor to Clinton’s campaign and the owner of CNN, which has often been dubbed by Republicans as the “Clinton News Network,” in addition to a variety of media properties.
A recent Gallup Study said less than 20% of the public trust newspapers or TV news. Banks, organized labor and the criminal justice system all were ranked higher than the media when it comes to trust.
No matter who becomes the next President of the United States, the credibility of the news media will never recover. The day of the media being the political kingmaker is over.