jeneretteadMeet Katherine Jenerette, a former aide to US Rep. Henry Brown (R-S.C.) who hopes to unseat him in next year’s Republican primary. This ad – direct and somewhat unconventional in approach, low budget and lodged on the Internet – is a harbinger of more to come in 2010.

We have some idea of what the campaign pitches we’ll see next year will look like based on the trends that were so evident in 2008. Predicting what particular kind of political ad will work next year – and in what medium — is still a tricky proposition.

“This may be the most fluid time in political campaigning we’ve seen in a while,” said John Rowley of the Nashville-based Democratic firm Fletcher Rowley Riddle, which won seven “Pollie” awards from the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) for its work in 2008.

A recent AAPC survey showed political consultants think that a decade from now they will be utilizing the internet more than television and direct mail to get their candidates message across, but between now and then, no one’s sure what the correct mix of old and new media will be. Barack Obama, last year’s “internet candidate,” spent $120-150 million on television, Rowley pointed out.

While social network sites, blogs and email trees allow candidates to “attract and keep and motivate a band of supporters,” Rowley said, they don’t reach a generation of loyal voters who haven’t yet caught up with Facebook, much less Twitter, and independent voters who aren’t in the internet political orbit. The new media already seems to have as many facets as the old, making it more difficult for strategists to know where to put their resources. Television may also remain attractive to campaigns next year because with news-hour ad rates plummeting, it’s likely to be cheaper than in elections past.

What you’ll see will be cheaper, too: “a lot less tinsel and glitter,” said Mark McKinnon, former President George W. Bush’s media advisor. In the old days, campaigns might spend days in the studio crafting “high-concept” ads. Now, McKinnon said, “one-man bands with a camera and a Mac computer” can produce ads for far less. The ease with which video can be produced, compressed and transmitted via the Internet has also dramatically shortened the turn-around time for political advertising.

It goes without saying that the economic downturn could necessitate many campaigns doing their ads on the cheap. This unvarnished approach also meshes with what McKinnon perceives as a desire for unpackaged, straightforward messages.

“An approach will work for a cycle or two and then become outdated,” the Austin-based ad expert said. “The public is very skeptical about political advertising, so it’s very difficult to create something that’s credible and gets the message across.”

Some signs are encouraging. Rowley believes it will be harder than ever to pull off the last-minute sneak attack, a practice which has already been pushed back dramatically by the ability to get responses out quickly over the internet. And the Internet gives campaigns the opportunity to deliver more targeted and longer messages – say, a podcast on the issue that’s most on your mind.

But if you’re sitting in your living room next summer watching a barrage of raw, cheap politics, those advantages may not be apparent. Increasingly, we could be moving toward a style of politics that draws an even sharper line between the involved, who will have a host of new opportunities to connect and inform themselves about next year’s races, and the uninvolved, who could find the political advertising of 2010 an even bigger nuisance than ever.

Editor’s note: This article was distributed by the Georgia Online News Service and originally appeared in the Southern Political Report

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Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter is the South's leading political reporter. He is currently editor of the Southern Political Report and senior vice-president of its parent company, InsiderAdvantage, a media and polling firm. For more than 40 years, he has worked for newspapers in Montgomery, Ala., Columbia, Md., Charleston, S.C. and Atlanta, Ga. At the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was a reporter, editor of the Sunday Perspective section, national editor, and for 20 years, chief political correspondent.