No Ad War on Roberts

Not that you probably needed more evidence, but here's some number crunching from the Nielson Montior-Plus and the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project indicating that the much anticipated multi-million dollar TV ads wars over George Bush's Supreme Court nominee just haven't materialized. The real message of the survey: it'll be a cakewalk for Judge Roberts.


MADISON, WI, August 18, 2005. Despite light, brief ad campaigns by two interest groups concerned with President Bush's nomination of Judge John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court, political television advertisements have been virtually absent from broadcast and cable television, indicating a less intense fight over the nomination than many expected, experts say. These are the findings of a new report from the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project that analyzed data provided by Nielsen Monitor-Plus. The report analyzes political television advertising in all 210 markets across the nation.

"This is another sign that this nomination is not going to be much of a fight," said Professor Ken Goldstein, director of the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project. "Are we going to see interest groups get involved and activists use lofty rhetoric that will make headlines? Sure. But with Senators home during the August recess with virtually no ads targeting even the most vulnerable incumbents, all indications are that this Supreme Court nomination process is not going to be the paid media battle that activists on both sides have been preparing for and promising for years."

On Wednesday, July 20th, the day after President Bush nominated Judge Roberts to the Supreme Court, Progress for America, Inc., a conservative 501(c)(4) issue advocacy organization that was highly active in the 2004 presidential race airing ads supportive of President Bush, launched an ad supporting Bush's nominee. PFA aired the ad, "Brilliant," 186 times on cable television networks. The group ran the spot nine times on local television in the Washington, DC market. PFA ran the ad 138 times in 138 other local markets, once per market, which would allow the group to claim a national campaign spanning more than half of the nation's markets, while spending the least amount of money possible. These 138 markets represent 80.7% of TV Households.

On Wednesday, August 10th, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the liberal 501(c)(4) issue advocacy organization, began running its controversial ad, "Speaking Out," opposing the Roberts nomination. The NARAL spot ran a total of 200 times, 3 spots on cable networks, and 197 spots, ostensibly aimed at the Senators from Maine and Rhode Island, in the markets in Bangor, Portland/Auburn, and Presque Isle, Maine as well as the Providence, Rhode Island/New Bedford, Massachusetts market. Under intense pressure from liberals and conservatives from both political parties, NARAL pulled the ad.

The second PFA spot, "How Low," placed by the organization's 527 arm Progress for America Voter Fund, was a response to the NARAL ad and began airing on August 11th, and ran 32 times on cable television networks and once in the Laredo, Texas market. The ads continued to air briefly after NARAL pulled their ad.

"There is currently no targeted TV paid advertising effort to influence Senators on the Supreme Court fight," Prof. Goldstein said. "It's like an election campaign. 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."
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