…that for a million bucks you could dramatically impact a Presidential campaign?
Would you take the deal? Most likely, yes. Per Open Secrets, the total spend on the Presidential campaign through May 27 is $877,722,907. Of that, the amount spent on media was $282,796,155.
So my million-dollar spend is .3% – three-tenths of a percent – of the media spend in the campaign to date.
I noted an interesting thing when I wrote about listening to Samantha Power:
And it’s interesting to me how the media indirectly shape our discourse – Power could write the book in part because she had a deal to sell the film rights. And George was intimately involved in the process of writing the book – looking at the drafts as they came off her computer.
For very little money – in film terms – but a lot of money – in journalistic terms – he managed to have a hand in shaping the story she wrote, and indirectly, shaping the political discourse about the UN and humanitarian aid, and America and Iraq.
In business, I’m always looking at those discontinuities – where what would be a small investment in one context becomes a meaningful one in another.
And I think there is probably a very meaningful one here, as writers about events and politics may have an incentive to shape their stories – and hence our perceptions – to meet the worldview and demands of Hollywood.
Of course, I’m talking about Scott McLellan’s book, and the furor surrounding it.
From my point of view, there’s very little shocking in the book. The fact that the decision to go after Saddam was made shortly after 9/11 is consistent with my opinion on why we went after Saddam – pour l’ecourager les autres, with the side benefit of stopping Saddam’s thugs from nailing people’s ears to walls.
The fact that the runup to the war was accompanied by political maneuvering and publicity would only be shocking to someone who’s never read a biography of FDR, or to someone like me who is pissed off that Bush did such an inept job of politicking and public salesmanship around the war.
So I don’t doubt that McLellan saw what he wrote about, and that there is a core of truth to his stories. But I’ll also suggest that the existence of the book itself is an interesting story, and one that we ought to think about.
I can’t find the details of his book deal, but George Stephanopoulos got a $2.7 million advance for his tell-all about the Clintons, and it’s likely that McLellan got something similar.
I don’t think he lied or had words placed in his mouth. But I’m willing to bet that his publisher made it clear that unless the book was ‘sexy’ in the right ways, there would be no deal, and I don’t think it was hard for McLellan to find the tone and points he needed to make to sex the story up appropriately. And I’m willing to bet that – as a political play – searching out the people who leave an Administration and trolling them with book deals is both good politics, and potentially – if you can make the controversy big enough – good business.
It’s the perfect marketing campaign. It cuts through the clutter with vast amounts of earned media, it’s credible at levels no ad campaign costing ten times as much would be, it shapes the dialog in a deeply meaningful way – and as a bonus, it might just earn back what you invested in it!