During a conference call this past weekend with reporters, Tim Hudak’s campaign director explained that the Progressive Conservatives plan to spend lots of money on online advertising, apparently by spending less than usual on television ads.
The reason, Ian Robertson said, is that people just don’t consume media the way the used to, so it’s necessary to be more flexible and creative in trying to reach them.
Their opponents have been happy to offer up other theories. Some of them are saying the focus on online advertising, which is a lot cheaper than TV spots, is a reflection of the Tories just not having enough money; others are saying it speaks to a reluctance to splash Mr. Hudak’s face all over TV.
Of these explanations, Mr. Robertson’s is probably closest to the truth. But there’s another one that also helps explain what the Tories are up to. Of the three major parties, the Tories are the most focused on motivation, and the least concerned with persuasion. That’s to say, while they certainly want to woo a few business-minded Liberals over to their side, they don’t think there are that many swing voters available to them.
Their biggest key to victory, they believe, is to make sure that Ontarians inclined to vote for them – if they vote for anyone at all – actually cast ballots.
If you’re trying to make broad arguments to large numbers of voters, TV remains the best advertising bet. But if your aim is more mobilization of your support base, there’s a case for web ads – which can be more narrowly targeted to voters depending on their interests, and whether they’re in ridings where you need every possible vote – being more effective.
These are early days, and there could yet be a big swing of support in one direction or the other that forces everyone to adjust. But for now, anticipating that the number of people willing to vote for them will remain relatively static, the Tories seem intent on playing a precision game.