TV Ads: Low Factor In High Court Decision

TV advertising has been a waning part of the marketing process in the executive branch of the U.S. government. It's apparently not much of a factor in the judicial branch either. With the exception of brief ad flurries by two interest groups concerned with President Bush's nomination of Judge John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court, TV advertising has been virtually nonexistent in the debate, according to results of a study released Thursday by the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project.

The report is based on an analysis of data from Nielsen Monitor-Plus on advertising in 210 TV markets. The result: Only three TV ad flights have run. The first, on July 20th--the day after President Bush nominated Roberts--came from Progress for America Inc., an advocacy group that was especially active during the 2004 presidential campaign, and ran a "Brilliant"-themed spot 186 times on cable TV networks and nine times on local broadcast TV stations in Washington, DC.

On Aug. 10, an opposing viewpoint ad themed "Speaking Out" was bought by NARAL Pro-Choice America, which ran 200 times on cable networks and 197 times in local TV markets. Under intense pressure from liberals and conservatives from both political parties, NARAL ultimately pulled the ad.



On Aug. 11, Progress for America rejoined, running a "How Low" spot in response to the NARAL ads 32 times on cable and once on broadcast TV in Laredo, Texas.

"There is currently no targeted TV paid advertising effort to influence Senators on the Supreme Court fight," said Ken Goldstein, director of the UW's Advertising Project. Goldstein suggested the relatively small ad effort indicates there won't be much of a Congressional battle over the nominate.

"It's like an election campaign," he said. "Candidates and parties can talk all they want about a state or seat being in play, but if they are not airing advertisements, the race is not competitive." In fact, TV advertising has been an eroding factor in other national political campaigns, especially for presidential races. In 2004, only $144,000 was spent on the broadcast networks, down from $772,600 in 2000 and from $33.8 million in 1996, the two previous presidential election years, according to estimates compiled by the Television Bureau of Advertising.

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