Video press releases

VIDEO PRESS RELEASES…. Just about every day, the McCain campaign releases a new “ad,” which is released to the media along with a vague promise that the commercial will air somewhere, at some point. Cable networks, predictably, run the ad over and over again, for free, as part of their coverage of the campaign. This has been especially true this week, with a series of McCain campaign “ads” featuring Hillary Clinton.

The WSJ’s Aaron Rutkoff noted that this is part of a well-executed scam that the news networks keep falling for.

In the press releases accompanying each new ad, the McCain team pledges to air them in “key states.” But don’t expect to see many show up in battleground state living rooms. According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which monitors political advertising across the country, only one of the three Clinton-themed ads has been broadcast so far — and that ad, featuring a Clinton delegate who now endorses McCain, is only airing in Toledo, Ohio.

That doesn’t mean these McCain ads won’t be seen by voters. The national media, which has its sensors tuned to any signs of Clinton-Obama drama in Denver, has readily amplified the messages. “These were basically video press releases,” says CMAG’s Evan Tracey. McCain’s Hillary-related ads are “designed to get under Democrats’ skin in Denver and designed to get into the convention coverage.”

Obama spokesperson Tommy Vietor told reporters yesterday, “Note to cable networks: The only time McCain’s Clinton-themed ads are running is when they’re included in your programming.”

Kevin added, “If they were podcasts, or blog posts, or flyers, or email blasts, the media would ignore them if their purpose were so transparent. I mean, who cares about a flyer produced in small quantities and handed out only to the media? But if it’s video, it’s news!”

But why would major news outlets repeatedly fall for the same trick, even when they realize the ads are created for the sole purpose of free media attention? There are competing explanations, but my hunch is a lot of outlets are just lazy, and video press releases make their jobs easier.