Political TV Ads Compete For Your Attention and Your Vote

Gov-Senate Candidates

Did you ever wonder how many political TV ads you were actually being exposed to on a weekly basis?

We took a look at one station in one market to see what advertising time had been purchased for one week.

Today, WNEP-TV 16, the ABC affiliate for northeastern Pennsylvania.

Beginning on Wednesday, October 5, viewers will be subjected to 760 political ads, according to our research. That works out to 4.5 per hour for the seven-day period.

You’ve heard that the PA-08 House race is an important one for both parties. Incumbent Democrat Matt Cartwright (D-Lackawanna) and his campaign has allocated $116,975 for 164 spots over the next seven days. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) assigned $178,440 for 61 ad buys. We were unable to locate any reserved time for Republican challenger Jim Bognet on WNEP, but the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) allotted $257,600 for 122 spots.

In the gubernatorial race, Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro has shelled out $40,340 for 98 slots, while GOP nominee Doug Mastriano has not reserved time.

On the Senate side in a race that could determine control of the chamber, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has purchased 120 spots at a cost of $57,860, while the Senate Majority PAC has earmarked $104,320 for 43 ads. It does not appear that Democratic candidate John Fetterman’s campaign has purchased air time.

The Senate Leadership Fund assigned $138,500 for 57 spots, while the Republican Jewish Coalition has apportioned $146,160 for 59 spots. Republican candidate Mehmet Oz’s campaign has allocated $22,440 for 35 slots.

Locally, only Aaron Sepkowski, the GOP candidate in the 113th state House district, has purchased time during the seven-day period. One spot, $1,000.

What does that total?

Seven-hundred and sixty (760) advertisements costing $1,063,635. You read that right, $1.06 million.

And that’s just one station in the 58th largest market in the country that reaches 571,000 TV households.

Pennsylvania has four markets in the top 60 in the country – Philadelphia (4), Pittsburgh (26), Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York (42) and Wilkes-Barre-Scranton-Hazleton (58)

Why so much money on ads?

Christopher Warshaw, associate professor of political science at George Washington University, co-authored a study on “The Effect of Political Advertising in United States Elections.”

“We find that the effect of ad airings is much larger in down-ballot elections than in presidential elections. The apparent effect of an individual airing is two to four times larger in gubernatorial, US House, and US Senate elections and 10 to 19 times larger in other statewide races, compared with presidential elections.”

“Paid media is the biggest expense a campaign has, and it’s also the most effective way that a campaign has to reach voters,” said Dan Bayens, co-founder and creative director of Content Creative Media, a Republican advertising firm specializing in TV, radio, and digital content, on WBUR Radio. “Ben Smith, who has his own media company but worked for The New York Times and BuzzFeed and Politico, had a great quote, which kind of simplifies things for me.

“It was, political campaigns are basically media operations that produce text and images, and video, and audio and try to circulate them and compete for the attention of audiences. And so you’re competing with everything a voter is viewing and seeing and every conversation they’re having. And it’s a difficult task.”

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