Given how much money candidates spend on advertising, one would imagine that ads have some impact. I guess for a truly undecided voter, an informative advertisement has value--assuming there are informative advertisements. I doubt such an animal exists.
I say this in a completely non-partisan spirit: Democratic ads are just as pointless as Republican ones (if less offensive to every tenet of basic human decency--but I digress). After all, an ad placed by a candidate will highlight either the good things done by that candidate or the bad things done by his or her opponent; such ads can hardly satisfy a voter's need for objective information. Sure, advertising does serve a purpose in generating name recognition, but anyone unfamiliar with the names "Obama" or "Romney" at this point in the game probably shouldn't be voting anyway.
Here's an interesting tidbit about this season's political advertising binge: With all that we've been hearing about super PACs' baleful influence on the political process, it seems that the President--ostensibly less-favored by the big money interests--has held his own quite nicely. In fact, according to an article in today's Times, ads favoring President Obama have outpaced ads favoring Mitt Romney, approximately 160,000 to 140,000--despite the fact that Republicans have outspent Democrats, roughly $500 million to $400 million. In other words, despite spending approximately 25% more on advertising, Republicans have placed about 12.5% FEWER ads.
And just remember, the standard-bearer of the Republican Party bases his claim to the presidency on his business acumen.