Who Approves This Message? Political Ad Fact-Checking For The Average Voter Isn’t Easy
Lying, misleading, and subtle threats on political TV commercials are not new. Even as new digital media attempts to eliminate much of this, expect more to come throughout these midterm elections on linear and connected TV platforms.
Also expect TV political ad revenues to hit new records — with broadcast TV hitting $3.8 billion, cable TV $1.4 billion, and OTT $1.2 billion, according to Kantar.
Michelle Nelson, professor of advertising of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, notes something we have previously cautioned about in TV Watch: The process that voters must take to determine what information is correct involves a lot of work. “Most people probably do not have the time for this intensive search,” she says.
There are a wide range of issues surrounding problematic social-media platforms.
Social media platforms can only do so much — short of not selling any political messaging. Or they can do the tougher task — finding a way to totally eliminate all political messages in user postings. And then there are freedom of speech issues that come into play.
Nelson points to research that reveals more than half of American surveyed in a Pew Research Center poll believed social media platforms should not be allowed to run political ads.
While there are legal tools to fight defamation and libel issues, she reminds us that the legal process can take time long after any elections are completed.
A growing number of fact-checking news sites help voters to evaluate and understand the information they read. But again, who has the time?
When it comes to information-seeking on politicians, we are left with “brand awareness.” One can just know the names of key candidates to consider, and perhaps a few data points. But not much else.
A greater danger comes with non-candidate political advertising, political action committees (PACs) and the like. Major funded political groups will continue to hide, using vague names and words like “American,” “freedom,” “justice” and “social” in the titles of their organizations.
Messages can also be vague, talking about elected officials looking to stop business innovation, or disrupting “your way of life.”
For their part, social-media platforms have been more circumspect about individual politicians and government officials like the former President, who was thrown off of Twitter and Facebook soon after the January 6 Capitol insurrection.
Nearer to an election, voters might consider being a journalist for one day — in the context of honest and deep research.
Consider a political TV ad just as a starting-off point. So when the next political TV commercial pops up, you can then just turn down the sound.
With that one flick of the remote, you can then whisper: “I approve this message.”