Imagine a virtually unknown consumer product is the beneficiary of
a launch campaign with an advertising budget of $50-60 million,
to be spent in a single market in less than six months. By the way, that
sum is roughly the equivalent of what was spent across the US in the
first half of 2001 to promote such well-known brands as Campbell's
soups, Prudential insurance, Clorox bleach, Intel microprocessors and
Sprite and Dr Pepper.
Needless to say, you wouldn't be surprised if the product soon overcame
whatever competition it faced to become No. 1 in the market. Well,
that's what happened when the billionaire media magnate Michael
Bloomberg, running on the Republican ticket, emerged victorious in his
first try for political office over the veteran Democratic officeholder,
Mark Green, in the mayoral election of New York.
To be sure, Bloomberg's adspend - every cent his own money and by far a
record for any race for local American office - was only one reason for
his unexpected win. After 11 September, Bloomberg's experience in the
private sector with no public service became a positive to potential
voters, not a liability, on the theory a city haemorrhaging jobs could
use a self-made go-getter who built a company from scratch into an
empire backed by a $4.5 billion bankroll. There were also rifts
among the ethnic groups that reliably back Democrats, depriving Green of
the support on which his party can usually count.
In a demonstration of just how well endorsements can work in real life,
not only in ads, Bloomberg was embraced by the incumbent, Rudy Giuliani,
whose popularity after the terrorist attacks made his thumbs-up more
valuable than those of Michael Jordan, Cindy Crawford and Bill Cosby put
In the end, though, it was Bloomberg's vast personal campaign that made
the difference, from the beginning, when Bloomberg announced his
candidacy not at a traditional rally but in a barrage of TV commercials,
to the end, when Bloomberg was still running spots on election day
evening. The green overwhelmed Green, whose adspend of $15
million would have set the record but for Bloomberg's moneybags.
Green couldn't match his opponent because he agreed to accept municipal
funding under the city's campaign-finance laws, which Bloomberg
As an architect of those limits, Green could hardly renounce them.
Bloomberg was spending like a drunken sailor in Times Square.
So Bloomberg was free - funny word, that - to run 6,500 TV commercials
to Green's 2,500, mixing upbeat biographical messages and 60-second
paeans from Giuliani with below-the-belt attacks on Green. Many
Bloomberg spots ran during programmes such as the World Series that
carry premium price tags because of their viewerships.
Bloomberg was also free - that word again - to deluge voters with
brochures and videotapes, pre-recorded telephone calls and newspaper and
websites ads. There were posters and Bloomberg "volunteers", paid to
hand out fliers.
Bloomberg wound up spending $69.59 for each vote he received,
compared with Green's $22.17. But voters seemed oblivious to his
spending his way into City Hall. They equated being independently
wealthy with independence from politics as usual.
Just wait until the new mayor sells naming rights to the city, makes the
highest bid himself and rechristens it Bloomburgh.