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This may have slipped under the radar, but Arnold Schwarzenegger, as reported by AdAge, launched a TV campaign now, even though he is running unopposed in the Republican Primary. The commercial, produced by National Media is significant because... is very early in the campaign cycle.
Pushing out advertising now, 7 months before the election, is a cutting edge strategy because it in effect, overhangs the market. Why I like this strategy is that it gives the candidate a chance to build brand awareness over time, plus start the process of generating donations and building email lists now, rather than wait until after Labor Day.
Brand awareness and acquisition campaigns perform better when there is a commitment to the marketing program over time. This gives the advertiser the chance to make adjustments to the buy and the creative; thus, making the program more ROI focused.
More candidates should follow Arnold's lead and start the process earlier. Sure you might be able to hit a homerun in a short duration campaign, but why not do what other well managed advertisers do?
That is, commit to a campaign over a 6 month period, test, learn, and optimize so that by crunch time, you've built up enough brand awareness and marketing know-how to beat your competition who is most likely using an out-dated strategy.
I know you are thinking, this is a political campaign, but why shouldn't they use strategies from the private sector? Now, if only online advertising could get a greater share of the media spend, say 5%, then we would really have something.

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Eric Frenchman is an online marketing and advertising consultant located in the Great State of New Jersey and Chief Internet Strategist for the online political agency Connell Donatelli Inc. Since 1998, Eric has managed multi-million dollar online advertising and CRM campaigns for AT&T, DLJdirect, Harrisdirect, and BMO Investorline and is a recognized expert in online marketing and advertising techniques. In 2005, Harrisdirect was ranked as the 17th largest online advertiser in the US and in 2003 was recognized as Best Financial Advertiser. Eric Frenchman's marketing blog is located here: