31 thoughts on “Horner Advertiser Reflects On Political Marketing

  1. Joe Loveland says:

    Thanks for adding to our discussions, Jac. I actually think political advertising, for all its warts, is a net benefit to democracy. Without it, turnout would be much lower and politics would be a more narrow, exclusive and ill-informed endeavor. Political ads obviously could be much better, but I have the minority view that they do more good than harm.

  2. That is quite a load of self-serving garbage. Advertising failing to move the needle for Horner, who had more positive media coverage than the other two candidates combined. Horner had NO MESSAGE other than “I’m not one of the other two guys.” That is anti-politics and he deserved to lose.

  3. Joe Loveland says:

    Rob, I lodged that criticism of Horner early on, but it turned out to be invalid. You may not like the substance of what he proposed, but its inaccurate to say he was about substanceless none-of-the-aboveism. His policy agenda was very substantive.

    Having said that, Coverdale’s Eyeball ad was about generic none-of-the-abovism instead of 40-point policy plans, and I think that was wise. Rob, try writing a 30-second ad sometime about a detailed policy agenda. I assure, you it will be a confusing jumble, sure to make swing voters’ eyes glaze over. That may be the kind of ad you want to watch, but it isn’t what swing voters find compelling or clear.

    But again, it’s just not fair or accurate to say “Horner had NO MESSAGE other than ‘I’m not one of the other guys.'” It’s true of the Eyeball ad — because that was an ultra-shorthand summary of the overall campaign message — but far from true about the overall campaign.

    1. BTW – the ads underscored the lack of message, they didn’t rebut it. What DID Horner stand for, except being between the other two candidates? He wasn’t for standing up to the disinvestment in the state as Dayton was for, or for tax fairness. He wasn’t for the naked plutocracy of the Republicans. The way the two major candidates staked out their true positions prevented Horner from standing for anything.

      1. I thought we were talking about ads here. Horner’s campaign relied on the false equivalency that Democrats and Republicans are equally extreme, which is false. The Republicans are extreme, the Democrats are pussies. If you got into the weeds of policy, yes, Horner offered something – but it really wasn’t substantive when you looked deeply – he wouldn’t even say how the sales tax would be extended. Horner represents disaffected Republicans and well-connected elites, period. I understand how that appealed to former and current PR professionals, but they don’t make up an electoral constituency.

      2. Joe Loveland says:

        Rob, the job of a 30-second ad isn’t to win a Most Substantive Campaign Award from the Citizen League (which Horner headed, by the way). It’s to persuade swing voters who want a quick snapshot of what the candidate is all about, which Eyeballs did (albeit with probably 1/50th the media weight of the opponents’ ads). In other words, ads need to be about the target audience’s message needs, and not the wonky zealots’ message needs.

      3. Joe, your argument is self-refuting. You say the purpose of a 30 second ad is to “persuade swing voters who want a quick snapshot of what the candidate is all about.” What were those ads about? The two other parties were extreme, and he was in the middle. Horner staked his campaign on that theme; it’s what he spent the majority of his money on; it is disingenuous to say that wasn’t what his campaign was about.

      4. BTW – if you look back, I said at the very beginning that the Horner campaign was doomed. The state is horribly and seemingly irreconcilably divided. Emmer did represent the Republicans with their extreme positions. Dayton represented the true hopes of Democrats – to make the tax code more fair and invest in the state. What was left for Horner?

      5. Joe Loveland says:

        I think this is the core of our disagreement.

        I agree that his ad campaign was about “I’m in the middle and not extreme.” But I disagree with your contention that that is ALL his campaign was about. That’s just not fair or accurate.

        Of course the ad is going to summarize the overall campaign. That’s always the job of 30-second ads. But the summary, shorthand ads are obviously not the sum and substance of the campaign. Just because the 40-point plan isn’t the focus of the ad doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist. Horner’s 40-point plan was the centerpiece of everything else he did, beyond the ads (e.g. the two dozen debates, news media interviews, etc.).

      6. Ok – Horner did have other positions – but not in his ads. The ads were a horrible failure. Was it because of the message, or the ads themselves? IMHO both.

        Horner is NOT separate from his media campaign. He controlled it. The message “I’m not them” was the main narrative of his campaign. He could have gone some other way in the ads, but he had no other big narrative. Why? Because he’s really just a disaffected Republican. He tried to conflate his disaffection with his former party into some kind of society-wide disaffection with both parties, and the voters weren’t buying it.

      7. Joe Loveland says:

        Somebody ate their Wheaties this morning didn’t they?! My friend, we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

    2. Yeah – I’m sort of vehement about this for two reasons. One – IMO Horner’s campaign was deceitful in its origin and execution, and two, it bugs me when political types(and their advertising men) blow smoke to obscure the reasons for their failure.

      1. Joe Loveland says:

        It’s simplistic and unfair to blame Horner’s loss on the ad guy. Everyone understood that any IP guber race is an uphill fight.

      2. Joe Loveland says:

        THAT’S the good and fair question. Ads aren’t to please or displease we zealots, they are to generate more support.

        For a time, my recollection is that support did pick up when the ads were begun. And then Horner’s support leveled off and ultimtately fell back. We can debate about the reason why they fell back — electability concerns kicking in and heavy attack ads from both sides is my theory — but the ads don’t strike me as a plausible explanation.

      3. Joe Loveland says:

        And then it ticked up to 18% in September, a 50% leap during the time the ads were running.

        It’s possible that a better ad campaign could have continued the momentum pushed him over the tipping point. That’s a fair question.

        Let me ask you this: Is it your contention that Horner lost solely or primarily because of his ad campaign?

  4. Mrs. Fay says:

    The strategy and outcome for the MN independant candidate sounds oddly familiar to what happened here in Maine (except we elected the teaparty guy, and at least Minnesotans seem to have more sense, if not better hockey). Is Mr. Horner going to continue to be involved in politics in MN? And how can we change the voters seemingly entrenched view that an independant candidate is “unelectable” or a throwaway vote?

  5. Dennis Lang says:

    Great stuff and I would hope for more of it–behind the scenes with the creative decision makers. Given the constraints and limitations on promoting Mr. Horner how would any of us have designed his campaign? Mr. Levine?

    1. I wouldn’t have touched his campaign with a ten foot pole – it was incoherent from the start. Great stuff? Horner ended up with 12 percent of the vote. What was he polling when he first announced? That is hardly an endorsement of an ad campaign.

      1. Dennis Lang says:

        “Great stuff.” Not the campaign (I have no opinion on its merit or lack of other than the challenge of promoting the underdog required something probably extraordinary) but the discussion with the people who designed it and the approach they took enlightening.

  6. Newt says:

    Coverdale’s campaign message effectively alienated party partisans on both sides. That’s not how you get to >34%. He clearly didn’t do the math.

  7. Thanks for doing this, Joe. My bottom line criticism of Horner’s campaign was that he gave disaffected liberals no real reason to vote for him. I considered it based on Emmer being a non-starter and Dayton’s career-long dysfunction. (I wrote in Rybak as a futile protest). But I kept waiting for Horner, or his message-makers, to give liberals some reason — most vitally on tax policy — to extend him the benefit of the doubt. His sales tax plan was regressive and unwieldy, and in the end he simply didn’t have it in him to take on standard Republican power centers.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      I agree about the overall regressivity of his tax package. That’s why this liberal couldn’t vote for him. But I think he did a lot to improve what was a pretty decent campaign:

      1) His wonky presence pressured his opponents to be more specific and comprehensive, and less Five G’s, than major party candidates have been in recent years.

      2) He brought policy ideas that you are going to see passed by the Legislature this year. Ironically, I think the final budget will look more like Horner’s than either Dayton’s campaign budget or Emmer’s campaign budget.

      3) Relevant to this discussion, Horner brought the only political ads of the season that weren’t look alike cookie cutter blah, blah, blah ads…which is why I invited Coverdale into this lion’s den.

      4) He brought a civil style that proved to be somewhat contagious (in the joint appearances, though not in the ads).

      So while I didn’t vote for Tom Horner, I’m glad he ran, because he improved the quality of the campaign debate.

  8. Ellen M says:

    Joe: Your last line tells the tale: “So while I didn’t vote for Tom Horner, I’m glad he ran, because he improved the quality of the campaign debate.”

    Small comfort to Horner. It’s like saying of the fat girl that she really does “have a pretty face” but, of course, she won’t be asked to the prom.

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