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24Sep/150

Back to the Airwaves

» Chron: Mayor race only now heading to TV

Rebecca Elliott from the Chron does the reporter-ey thing and captures some details of the ad "war."

To date, five candidates have paid a combined $1.6 million to advertise on network television, half of what was spent on TV in the last open-seat race in 2009.

...

Thus far, Costello has spent more on broadcast than any candidate in the race – about $625,000 across KTRK (Channel 13), KHOU (Channel 11), KPRC (Channel 2,) KRIV (Channel 26) and KIAH (Channel 39), according to his campaign - with ads scheduled in two waves through Nov. 2. He also has been advertising on cable since July.

...

Meanwhile, presumptive frontrunners Sylvester Turner and Adrian Garcia, who closed out the first half of the year with more than $1 million in the bank apiece, have invested about $450,000 each in broadcast TV.

At the time of posting on the 22nd, I had the press release in hand about Turner's buy and I'd seen an ad for Chris Bell that morning. As the story (and press release in my inbox) indicates, the pro-HERO folks will go up on the air on Thursday with a fairly significant-sized buy. With that, here's a minor update on the cross-section that I've been tracking for ads placed on local newscasts:

HOU2015_ads_0924

Four details from the Chron story seem worth pointing out:

- Bill King's cable buy of $300k qualifies as a different means of trying to do the same thing. Simply stated, $300k on cable is a very different animal than what most other candidates will do. I'll be shocked if King doesn't go on broadcast at some point. But the level of his cable purchase is a worthwhile strategy.

- Adrian Garcia's plan to go up on TV as late as possible despite sufficient resources is a gamble. Obviously, they're banking on Garcia having good name ID and probably some ability to coalesce some of the Latino vote from Univision ad placements. There's a fair amount of risk in this approach.

- Chris Bell's lack of money in the bank is a definite strike against him. But I think the quality of his ad and the low-cost placements he's going for give him a decent bang-for-the-buck. Early AM and afternoon newscasts aren't super expensive and the audience from them is pretty rich. There are a couple of placement patterns available on cable that are also inexpensive and reach a good audience for voters. It remains to be seen if any of this will have an impact on actual votes cast, but there's nothing wrong with doing the best you can when only limited resources are available.

- Marty McVey's strategy is highly suggestive that some of the rumors I've heard will come true. Namely, that he isn't going to spend most of the money he's loaned himself for the campaign. Heck, at this point, I'm not sure why he's spending any of it. The quote in the article is essentially a concession speech.

Those points aside, there are mixed results for what early ad exposure gets you. The belief is that Costello was simply trying to game exposure prior to polling in order to show something better than single digits. I haven't seen any campaign's polling to know if that worked, but I would have been more impressed with Costello's early strategy if it was more evenly purchased and aimed at creating something for Election Day rather than a poll.

The go-by example for early advertising is obviously Bill White in 2003. But the dollar amounts for what White spent aren't seen in candidates this time around. As for the "not" example, there's Peter Brown. Brown was airing his second ad and had at least one mailer delivered by this time. For what little it matters to the outcomes, I thought Brown's ads were good and Bill White's early ads weren't. Suffice it to say, quality of the candidate matters. And usually, a little luck and whole lot of other things have an impact, too.

So I don't claim early advertising to be the end-all of candidate success. I'm just amazed that any individual campaign would leave the playing field to someone else when they have the means to compete. And at the end of it all, I think there is something to be said for communicating what you plan to do as mayor to voters outside of the limited network of civic organizations, political clubs, makeshift candidate forums, and the lucky few who get to meet a candidate on their doorstop.

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