Allegedly, the Seattle Times purchased political ads in its own paper—about $75,000 worth each on behalf of Rob McKenna and R-74—as an experiment, in order to demonstrate to political campaigns the "effectiveness and value of political advertising in newspapers." Or at least, that's what they claimed.
So now that the election is over, it's time to analyze the results, and evaluate the effectiveness and value of political advertising in the Seattle Times.
R-74 won! Yay! But then, it was always leading in the polls. In fact, the most recent Elway Poll—conducted October 18-21, immediately following the October 17 start of the Seattle Times political advertising experiment—had R-74 up by four points. As of tonight, R-74 is leading by almost exactly four points. Elway was spot on. But unfortunately, that doesn't show any evidence of the Seattle Times ads moving voters one way or another.
But the governor's race tells a different story. That same Elway Poll had McKenna leading Democrat Jay Inslee by two points at the start of this experiment. But as of the moment, it is Inslee who is leading McKenna by better than two points. That's a four point swing in Inslee's direction! And McKenna has done particularly poorly in the Seattle Times' home market, trailing Inslee in King County by a whopping 63-37 margin. Ouch.
Presumably, had McKenna improved his standing over the course of the Seattle Times' advertising campaign and gone on to win the election, the paper's advertising sales reps would have touted that as evidence of the ads' value and effectiveness. But since McKenna actually lost ground over the course of the ad campaign, we can only assume that these ads were to blame. Indeed, one could even argue that Seattle Times cost McKenna the election!
So there you have it: A clear demonstration of the effectiveness and value of political advertising in the Seattle Times. And a cautionary tale that political consultants and media buyers would do well to heed in campaigns to come.