In simple terms, political advertising is the use of publicity campaigns carried out in newspapers, on television and on the radio, to influence the political decisions of various groups of people. During presidential campaigns, all candidates try to use advertising to their advantage, and the stakes are especially high in swing states, where a solid ad campaign can win over large numbers of voters.
The current candidates for the upcoming US presidential elections are waging a fearsome ad war in swing states, where president Obama is overwhelming his Republican opponent with a torrent of TV ads. The 9 key states that the two candidates will be trying to win over during the coming weeks are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Obama has launched no less than 230,000 ads since the beginning of the year, surpassing Mitt Romney's performance two-fold. Obama's campaigners have invested heavily in swing states, with the current president having more ads than his opponent in all 9 states but one, Wisconsin, where Romney had 561 more ads than Obama. Ohio, however, currently shows the greatest disparity between the two candidates, in terms of advertising campaigns. Romney has 17,000 ads in Ohio, while Obama has an impressive 51,000 ads, three times as many as his opponent.
Aside from influencing voting decisions, political advertising also serves as an information source for the public. Voters can learn about the candidates' stances on a number of issues, which helps influence preferences. Recent studies have have shown that voters are heavily influenced by the type of ad they are exposed to, and that televised ads, in which the candidate addresses the voters directly, are most efficient.
Presidential candidates use both positive and negative advertising to consolidate their campaigns. Negative ads (or attack ads) seek to undermine the credibility of the opponent by pointing out weaknesses or contradictions in their political stance. Impact studies have revealed that negative ads tend to be better remembered by the public than positive ads.