Advertising, Marketing & PR and Government

Political TV ads not coming from presidential candidates

October 1, 2012
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Who is paying for all those political advertisements inundating your television? Probably not who you think, said Rich Robinson, executive director at Michigan Campaign Finance Reform.

In fact, Robinson said that superPACs and nonprofit “social welfare” groups sponsored 70 percent of the political advertising viewers saw through Labor Day focused on the presidential race.

The presidential candidate committees themselves are not buying time on local TV stations in Michigan.

Instead, groups like Americans for Prosperity, American Future Fund, American Energy Alliance, Crossroads GPS and Restore Our Future are buying the majority of the political advertising.

Crossroads GPS had purchased $714,480 in advertising from West Michigan broadcasters and cable systems through Sept. 3, followed by Restore Our Future, which purchased the second highest amount of television advertising in the region with $484,558.

MCFR, which is a nonpartisan, nonprofit focused on campaign finance reform, tracks the amount of money spent on television during election seasons.

Robinson said the top four TV stations in the top 50 markets are required to report spending to the Federal Communications Commission, and that information is available to the public through the FCC website.

Radio stations do not have to upload their records to the FCC website, but they do have to keep a public file of the information.

Television spending makes up two-thirds of national and statewide advertising efforts, though local races and the state legislature tend to focus their advertising dollars on things like direct mail, polling, field staff and radio.

So who is spending locally? U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow will spend a significant amount in West Michigan during the next several weeks on WOOD, WZZM and WXMI. According to the FCC website, Stabenow will run ads from now through the election on all three stations.

Her contender, Pete Hoekstra, has not purchased television advertising in the region from now through the election.

Steve Pestka, who is running for U.S. Representative in the Third District, also is spending locally on television advertising, while incumbent Congressman Justin Amash is not.

TV viewers can expect to continue to see “issue ads” from the many superPACs and nonprofits that have been buying up advertising previously, many of which will be running ads up through the election, as well.

Television advertising time is expensive, and one local political candidate found a unique and successful way of advertising prior to Nov. 6 that only cost $5,000. Bridget Mary McCormack, who is running for the Michigan Supreme Court, called upon her Hollywood connections to produce a video that her campaign uploaded to YouTube in September. The video features actors from the hit TV show “West Wing,” including McCormack’s sister, Mary McCormack, who played Deputy National Security Adviser Kate Harper.

The video has already garnered McCormack more than 760,000 views on YouTube.

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