In addition, the races are close and the stakes are high. Republicans could potentially win enough seats to gain a majority in the House and/or the Senate and also gain key Governor positions.
The net effect of too much negativity in political campaigns generally causes voters to stay home. This would aid Republican candidates.
The Democratic Party was successful in 2008 in recruiting new voters, many of them minorities and young people. These voters have not seen the radical change they were hoping for, and may be disillusioned enough with the entire process that they stay home and don't vote.
The increased spending is good for local broadcasters and cable operators who have been among the hardest hit by the recession. Local TV stations will get about half of the spending. Cable and radio will get about 9 percent each and newspaper about 8 precent. Online advertising is not yet used heavily in local campaigning.
Both the volume of the ads and the generally negative tone are also highlighting another fact: that right now government, particularly the federal government, is not working well together. Voting in the House and Senate has overwhelmingly gone straight down the party line.
I had a car once that was nice to look at but very loud and not very reliable. It made a lot of noise and burned a lot of gas, and it didn't get me where I wanted to go. As soon as I could, I got rid of it and ever since then I've paid more attention to performance and reliability than any other factor when I've purchased a car.
Poll after poll suggests voters are frustrated by all of the negative noise of the campaigns. In advertising, many corporate clients learn the hard lessons of angering consumers — it always comes back to bite you.
Larry Woodard is a director on the Advertising Week board and chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies' New York Council.