The Philadelphia Mayoral race is gearing up for a frenetic finish and while everyone’s focused on the candidates’ most recent debate barbs this election could come down to a battle of public relations versus advertising. With just seven days to the democratic primary, two candidates – Tom Knox and Michael Nutter – have emerged as apparent frontrunners. Some say Knox has bought his way to the top of the polls spending millions of dollars on advertising. Nutter on the other hand has gained major momentum in recent weeks through a strong public relations campaign. Let’s take a closer look at the marketing tale of the tape:
A millionaire businessman, Knox has spent more than $8 million of his own money to finance his campaign, including more than $5 million on TV advertising since December. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that as of April this advertising budget amounted to nearly 13 times as much as that of rival Chaka Fattah. In fact, the Philadelphia Daily News reported Saturday that Knox has nearly outspent all his rivals combined. The man once dismissed as a hopeless amateur has now been vaulted to the top of the polls. You have to wonder just how much of that is a result of significant ad spend. (I’ll give you a hint: more than a little).
Now take Nutter: Nutter is living every aspiring politician’s public relations dream – he’s been endorsed by just about every major Philadelphia publication, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, Philadelphia Magazine, Philadelphia Weekly, Philadelphia City Paper, Northeast Times, and Daily Pennsylvanian. That’s no small feat. These endorsements have helped Nutter, once dead last in the polls, leapfrog the competition and secure his status as a mayoral frontrunner.
So who wins: Advertising or Public Relations? Marketing strategists Al Ries and Laura Ries cast their vote pretty clearly in their book “The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR.” After all, as they put it, “You can’t force your way into the prospect’s mind. Advertising is perceived as an imposition, an unwelcome intruder that needs to be resisted. The harder the sell…the harder the prospect resists the sales message.”
So how’s this one gonna play out? I say let the best communication medium (and, I guess, candidate) win. Not that I’m biased, but my money’s on Nutter.