Milestones of a Dying Empire: $1 Million on TV Ads in One Day in Presidential Marketing Race

In the 1950s, megacorporations launched “the marketing revolution” by making conscious, scientific management of prospective customers’ off-the-job experiences the king of the managerial arts.

The political marketing revolution — the use of targeting, focus groups, and careful image-creation to sell what otherwise would not sell — has lagged only a few years behind its directly commercial parent discipline. At least since Bill Clinton, its role in the farces we call federal elections has been complete. Honest, spontaneous, open debate no longer exists in any degree in the selection of American presidents. Now, it’s all rehearsed restatements of “tested” product-differentiation tactics. The amount of honesty involved in the process is roughly the same as it is in the marketing of Enzyte, the once-daily tablet for natural male enhancement.

This is not really news, of course. But here’s something that is: the “major” (read: “safe”) image-bots competing for the nominations of our two quasi-rivalrous Business State “parties” have (along with the sad freakshow attending Ron Paul, the Texas “libertarian” who proposes state-fascist immigration policies) now produced the first million-dollar-day in U.S. political advertising history. Evan Tracey of Advertising Age magazine reports:

On Dec. 10, the 2008 presidential campaign hit a significant milestone: the first $1 million dollar day in TV spending. What makes this day so extraordinary is the majority of this spending is not from groups, but from the candidates. The spending is largely aimed at voters in just two states and the ads are, for the most part, positive. Further, this amount takes into account only broadcast TV.

So mark down Dec. 10 on the calendar; it will be something to win future bar-stool bets. It was the first day with $1 million-plus in TV political spending, but it won’t be the last. Submit your prediction now for the first $2 million dollar day. I have Jan. 2 in the pool.

All this 11 months before an “election” in which, despite long-standing public frustrations, virtually nothing is at stake — not war, not single-payer health insurance, not economic redistribution, not seriously increased educational spending, not substantial political reform of any kind.

The word keeps recurring around here: decrepitude.