Kerry TV Strategy Questioned


The Kerry campaign came in for some criticism in a new study of its TV-buying strategy.

"These are either politically damaging oversights or savvy strategic decisions," said Ken Goldstein, director of the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project, of the campaign's nuanced spending strategy.

At issue has been the campaign's spending patterns in key swing states Florida and Ohio. While overspending the Bush campaign in Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach and Tallahassee in Florida, for example, it allowed itself to be overspent in much smaller, panhandle markets.

In 2000, Al Gore followed a similar strategy, ignoring much of the Florida panhandle," said Goldstein. Similarly in Ohio, Goldstein says that Bush has outspent the campaign in two small markets, Zanesville and Lima, "which the Democrats have ignored," he says, "notwithstanding a new Kerry campaign emphasis on small town and rural America.

Joel Rivlin, deputy director, agrees, wondering aloud why the Kerry campaign, with the added spending help of and the AFL-CIO, would not be targeting some of the panhandle markets as well, given that the spots there would be less expensive and that 600 or so votes in the state decided the last election.

Rivlin said he was surprised the Democrats weren't trying to achieve greater parity in some of those smaller, cheaper markets. He was also surprised at the extent of the targeting nationwide from both campaign.

The ads remain highly targeted to key states in play, particularly Ohio, with 60% of the country living in markets that have not yet aired a single ad for either side, according to the just-released survey, which for the first time is based on Nielsen Monitor-Plus figures for gross rating points.

According to the study, local news is by far the most popular programming category in which to place the spots, with 40-plus percent of campaign spots purchased in local station newscasts and another 11% in The Today Show and Good Morning America.

Next most popular programs for campaign spots were daytime syndicated talkers, with the top-rated Oprah most popular, followed by spin-off Dr. Phil and Live With Regis & Kelly. Access shows were next in line, with the money chasing the top rating points. Genre leaders Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! were most popular. Next in line was prime time.

The campaign ads target Ohio and Missouri, women over men, and older demos over younger.

According to the study, of advertising between the March 4 end of the primary season and June 20, Bush ran more ads in 83 of 93 media markets, but when Kerry's ads are combined with those of and the AFL-CIO, the pro-Kerry forces had more ads in 62 (exactly two thirds) of the 93 markets.

The Bush campaign has some friends too, including Club For Growth, Citizens United, and Progress For America, but their ad buys were in only a handful of markets and too insignificant to include, according to the study (as were as from Kerry backers Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters).