Candidates Pour Cash Into Battle

Apr 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Their advertising may have started somewhat later than expected, but Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are closing out the race for Pennsylvania by pouring money into campaign advertising.
With the possibility that Tuesday’s vote could yet play a crucial role in the Democratic race, if not decide its winner, both candidates have been aggressively upping the ante in ad buys, according to TV station and local cable ad sales divisions.
As of early last week, with spending continuing if not growing, nearly $21 million had been spent in the state.
Of that, nearly $18 million was spent on advertising, most of it on broadcast ads, according to TNS Media Intelligence’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.
Comcast Spotlight, the main vehicle for spot cable, got about $3 million.
By the time the race for Pennsylvania ends on Tuesday, the total ad spend there could approach $25 million.
As was the case in earlier state elections, the heaviest spending has come from Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign. He has spent the most in Philadelphia, where Sen. Hillary Clinton is considered to have a lead, and less than half as much in Pittsburgh, where he may be the leader, according to polls. Philadelphia is the nation’s fourth-largest market; Pittsburgh is No. 22.
Both candidates also are running ads in Indiana and North Carolina, whose primaries follow Pennsylvania’s on May 6, and some buys have started for the May 20 Oregon primary.
Philadelphia Spending
In Philadelphia, the Democratic candidates have spent double to triple what they have spent in Pittsburgh. The Obama campaign has not only spent more, but it has bought a broader selection of programming. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported both campaigns had purchased ad time during Fox’s broadcast of “American Idol” in the Philadelphia market, but there were three ads for Obama compared to one for the Clinton campaign.
The Clinton campaign last week called the Obama spending “earth-shattering, record-breaking, eye-popping.” However, local television stations said it paled in comparison to spending on a recent Democratic gubernatorial primary in which campaign spending lasted longer.
Bob Bee, director of sales for Hearst-Argyle’s WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, said the spending was a welcome surprise, since Pennsylvania’s position late in the primary cycle had led to expectations that the state wouldn’t be a major factor in the Democratic race.
“After Super Tuesday, then Ohio and Texas, the ball was over our head and the spotlight turned on us,” he said.
He added that the presidential campaign spending turned out to be a savior when expected local primary races failed to materialize.
TV, cable and media trackers said that although Pennsylvania follows the Ohio and Texas primaries by six weeks, there was no spending in the first two weeks, then only modest spending, followed in the last two weeks by major spending.
In Philadelphia, where there are some local races, Michael Colleran, president of CBS’ KYWT-TV and CW affiliate WPSG-TV, said he did expect some presidential ads, but that advertising has come in force.
“We went into it knowing it could be a very important date, but we really didn’t know,” he said.
Election Programming
Those stations and others in the market have offered special primary-related programming, both on-air and on station Web sites.
Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNSMI’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, said local TV stations have struck a gold mine with political advertising.
“It’s like an ice cream truck breaking down in front of their house,” he said, adding that the spending could bode well for Pennsylvania getting presidential campaign advertising this fall.
Dana Runnells, a spokesman for Comcast Spotlight, which sells the two minutes per hour of local time on cable channels for most of Pennsylvania, where Comcast is the dominant cable provider, said in Philadelphia the candidates have made 22% of their TV buys on cable; the Obama campaign alone made 25% of its TV buys on cable. In Pittsburgh, about 16.2% of buys have been on cable; in Pennsylvania overall, cable’s portion of the TV ad spend is at 14%.
Wasted Reach
One reason for the high cable numbers is that Philadelphia stations’ broadcast area includes parts of New Jersey and Delaware, states that aren’t voting Tuesday. With local cable, buys can be limited to reach Pennsylvania residents alone.
Mr. Runnels also said the candidates are targeting some of their buys to polling data.
While the Clinton campaign until this week had bought mostly news or informational programming, the Obama campaign has made broader buys.
The Clinton campaign focused much of its advertising during the final week going into the Pennsylvania election on charges it has made against Mr. Obama, including one related to his comments on small-town residents being “bitter.” The Obama campaign has used some of its advertising to respond.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, said that while advertising is increasing, the impact of the presidential advertising isn’t likely to be as great as in other political races.
“The public is paying close attention to this election and making extensive use of the Internet for political information,” she said. “Both factors should reduce the effects of broadcast ads.”


  1. Sad that you present the cable pitch of wasted reach as if the concept had merit and that you publish the college professors hypothesis that television is somehow having reduced impact/influence as a result of the internet. Both these folks were sharing ideas that are completely debunked in the land of reality and facts.
    Investment in broadcast television is nothing but pure ROI that can be measured at the poles, at the cash register and by the audience research experts. All three of these tests must be passed to declare oneself the absolute greatest ad investment on the planet. Not bragging, just a fact.

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