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New Hampshire Primary Results May Set Off Ad Spending Frenzy

Jan 9, 2008  •  Post A Comment

It’s damn the polls, full speed ahead for the presidential race as the surprise New Hampshire results portend more ad spending rather than the expected easing from a quick knockout.
Political and advertising executives said today that in the Democratic race, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s New Hampshire win forces the candidates to immediately move their focus beyond the next two states—Nevada and South Carolina—to Feb. 5, Super Duper Tuesday. On that day, more than 20 states, among them New York, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Colorado, have primaries.
Unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, where organization was the main weapon, the main weapon on Feb. 5 will be media advertising, although the candidates also will rely heavily on publicity.
“It resets the game clock,” said Steve McMahon, a Democratic media consultant. “As we move past Nevada and South Carolina, it’s much more of a media campaign than a retail campaign.”
Besides forcing the campaigns to spend much more money, Mr. McMahon said, the high cost of some of the media markets in the 20 states necessitates choices. None of the Democrats will be able to spend at Iowa and New Hampshire media levels.
The choices could make some media markets big winners, while others see nothing.
“They’ll be looking at tactical media strikes in select markets versus a national effort,” Mr. McMahon said, predicting that national cable and some network TV news and public affairs programming could be the beneficiaries of any national buys.
For Republicans, too, Sen. John McCain’s victory alters the playing field, likely making Feb. 5 more important and boosting ad spending toward it. The GOP has a few more stops than the Democrats before the Feb. 5 impact becomes fully clear, with contested primaries in Michigan and Florida.
“On the Republican side, it would be astonishing if it doesn’t go beyond Feb. 5,” said Norman J. Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Association. He added that a win by Sen. McCain over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Michigan and problems for former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in Florida could still change the script.
Mr. Ornstein said the most likely Republican scenario is that alternating winners in GOP primaries leaves no single candidate with a knockout or with sufficient money to advertise everywhere.
“Feb. 5 is potentially going to be a problem for most of the Republican candidates,” he said. “Unless Romney wants to take all his [personal wealth], competing in all 20 states is going to be prohibitively expensive. They don’t have $40 million to $50 million in the bank, so what you are going to see is a very different process and a different kind of ad strategy where they are going to do national cable and look for other places to target.”
Mr. Ornstein suggested the GOP race could be so wide open that it actually could be decided at the Republican National Convention.
TV station sales executives in South Carolina and Nevada said advertising buys are already well under way in their states, but so far at manageable levels.
Misty Morgan, national sales manager for Landmark Communications’ KLAS-TV, the CBS affiliate in Las Vegas, said fewer than 10% of ads on the stations are political spots, with the Clinton and Obama campaigns both buying time. “It’s very small in the grand scheme of things,” she said.
Georgia Brown, national sales manager for Raycom’s WCSC-TV, the CBS station in Charleston, S.C., said political advertising is heavier there, with the Romney campaign spending heaviest, followed by John Edwards’ campaign, and the Clinton, Huckabee and Ron Paul campaigns all buying time.
However, the Romney campaign late Wednesday pulled its ads from South Carolina and Florida and said it will focus on Michigan’s primary next Tuesday.
1:40 p.m. Updated: added final paragraph

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