The Iowa Ad Campaign
DEMOCRACY IN ACTION
possible thanks to video assistance from Robert A. Ussery of Des Moines.
10 p.m. (broadcast started at 10:24 p.m.): Ad Break #1: Pioneer, GMC Sierra, Taco John's.
Ad Break #2: Ford, Catholic Charities, Pandora (jewelry), Romney.
Ad Break #3: Chevy, Perry, Childserve.org.
Ad Break #4: Toys for Tots, Meskwaki Casino, Toys for Tots, Perry, Hope Ministries.
Ad Break #5: GMC Sierra, Pizza Hut, Romney.
Total: 18 ads totaling 9 min. 4 political ads totaling 2 min.
Sunday, December 4
10 p.m. (hour-long broadcast): Ad Break #1: Toys for Tots, Theisen's, Pioneer, American Family Insurance.
Ad Break #2: Hardee's, Make Us Great Again, Pandora (jewelry), Perry.
Ad Break #3: Toys for Tots, Romney, Toys for Tots, U.S. Cellular.
Ad Break #4: Toys for Tots, Honda, Taco John's, ENT Clinic of Iowa, Perry.
Ad Break #5: Karl Chevrolet, Pizza Hut, Consumer Credit of Des Moines, Romney, Chevy.
Ad Break #6: Gordman's, Toys for Tots, Perry.
Ad Break #7: Toys for Tots, Chevy, Nebraska Furniture Mart.
Ad Break #8: Toys for Tots, Consumer Credit of Des Moines, Romney.
Total: 31 ads totaling 15 min. 30 sec. 7 political ads totaling 3 min. 30 sec.
Note: Hour-long broadcast.
While the ground game and retail politics are critical in Iowa, the campaigns, their allies and interested groups did not neglect the air war. According to Smart Media Group (+), these entities spent a total of $16.5 million on advertising during the Iowa caucus campaign (this includes $1.8 million the Bachmann, Pawlenty and Paul campaigns spent in the lead up to the Straw Poll).
Following a lull of several months after the Straw Poll,
for the final stretch of the Iowa campaign began to pick
up in late October/early November. Perry went up on TV on Oct.
launched his first
TV ad in Iowa on Nov. 9. Romney started in New Hampshire on Nov.
22 and expanded to Iowa on Dec. 1. Gingrich went
up in Iowa on Dec. 5, and Santorum on Dec. 15. The super PACs
started their ad campaigns as well; Make Us Great Again (supporting
Perry) went up in Iowa on Nov. 2, Restore Our Future (supporting
Romney) went up on Dec.
7, and Red White and Blue Fund (supporting Santorum) started Dec.
The chart is based on a review of the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. local newscasts on KCCI Channel 8, the CBS affiliate in Des Moines, comprising a total block of time of about 65 minutes each day over the month leading up to Jan. 3.
KCCI Channel 8, a
Television station, bills itself as "Iowa's News Leader." The
station offered viewers
a front row vantage point for the caucuses, branding its coverage with
the "Commitment 2012"
KCCI presented the mix of crime, accidents, lighter human interest stories, weather, and sports that one would expect to find on a typical local newscast, but viewers saw more political coverage than people elsewhere around the country. For example, the Dec. 9 10 p.m. broadcast opened with six-plus minutes of caucus coverage encompassing a debate preview, Bachmann at Nationwide, Santorum endorsed by Schultz, Romney in Cedar Rapids, exclusive with Ann Romney, and a Perry brain freeze episode at the Des Moines Register.
In addition to regular coverage of
candidate appearances in the greater Des Moines area and Iowa, the
coverage included interviews with candidates and surrogates as well as
with national media figures. Drake
University professor of politics Dennis J. Goldford made fairly
frequent appearances on KCCI providing expert analysis.
of several of the
candidates ran during the period reviewed (the 10 p.m. broadcast on
Dec. 7 looked at the
personal side of Jon Huntsman, and the next day looked at his
positions; the 6 p.m. broadcast on Dec. 13 looked at the personal side
of Ron Paul and the next day looked at his positions; the 6 p.m.
broadcast on Dec. 21 looked at Gingrich and the next day looked at his
One of the more interesting features KCCI did was called "Dining
with the Undecideds." For a couple of months the station had been
checking in with undecided Des Moines voters Tom Bernau (who had wanted
to see Christie run) and Becky Beach (who had wanted to see Palin
run). In the closing week the station filmed three "Dining with
the Undecideds" at Beach's house. The format was just the
candidate conversing with the two undecided voters across a modest meal
(Perry on Dec. 28, Santorum on Dec. 30 and Bachmann on Jan. 1).
Both Beach and Bernau ended up backing Romney, with Santorum as their
News programming is prime territory for political advertisers. Different newscasts have different audiences. Ratings for KCCI's 10 p.m. newcast are about double those of the 6 p.m. newscast. Generalizing, a 5 p.m. broadcast would have more retired people and stay-at-home moms among its viewers, while the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. broadcasts would draw people who have come home from work. Data from firms such as Scarborough Research allow media buyers to drill down and target blue collar workers or single women or higher income viewers or other demographics as desired.
The structure of the two broadcasts examined was fairly similar.
The 6 p.m. newscast typically had five ad breaks. It opened with a substantial block of news followe by ad break #1; then had a shorter segment and a weather promo followed by ad break #2; then weather followed by ad break #3; then sports followed by ad break #4; then the end of the broadcast followed by ad break #5 leading to "Inside Edition."
The 10 p.m. newscast typically had five ad breaks. It opened with about ten minutes of news followed by the ad break #1; then had a shorter segment and a weather promo followed by ad break #2; then weather followed by ad break #3; then another short news segment followed by ad break #4; then sports followed by ad break #5; and then a very short close with the market report and quick weather summary; concluding at about 10:34 p.m., and going directly to "The Late Show" at 10:35 p.m..
On the weekends
the broadcasts were a bit different. Only the 10 p.m. broadcasts
considered. The Saturday 10 p.m. broadcast often started
Sunday 10 p.m. broadcast went for one hour.
Typical ad breaks went for two or three minutes, comprising four
spots and promos. One might see up to two-and-a-half minutes of
ads. The first ad break of the 6 p.m.
broadcast typically had one minute of ads. In the mix in
addition to 30-second spots were one-minute spots, 15-second spots
(usually two 15-second spots from the same advertiser were run in an ad
break, one at the beginning and one at the end) and 10-second
In addition to the full-fledged ads run during the broadcasts there were various and sundry sponsored station promos (for the Doppler weather, for the market report, for closed captioning, for the Duffy cartoon) as well as promos for KCCI (touting everything from its caucus coverage to holiday greetings to encouraging people to "Like" KCCI on Facebook) and for programming appearing on KCCI. During the 6 p.m. broadcast, for example, there were often promos for "Inside Edition," which followed the news. None of these promos are considered in this review. Toys for Tots ads, which are included in this review, had a number of different sponsors (probably the most frequent was Iowa Network Service); the listing here does not break out the sponsors.
This survey is not comprehensive review of all campaign and political ads run during the last month of the Iowa caucus campaign; rather it is a review of ads appearing in the 65 minutes total time of the two KCCI news broadcasts each day. Reviewing larger blocks of time and/or other program segments on KCCI, on other stations in Des Moines, on stations in other Iowa markets, and on cable TV would have produced a chart with more political ads and a different mix of political ads. For example, although the Santorum campaign reported going up on Dec. 15 and running several ads during the closing weeks, this review did not catch a single Santorum ad. Similarly the Bachmann campaign went up with a late buy the day before the caucuses; both the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts showed footage from the ad, but the ad did not run during those newscasts. Finally, KCCI's 5 p.m. broadcasts were not considered here, but an ad from Numbers USA directed at the presidential candidates was seen on one of those broadcasts.
Despite these limitations, the chart aims to give a sense of what
was running during this time, the ad density, and the balance between
campaign and super PAC ads.
||# Pol. Ads
|Pol. Ad Time
|| (4:2) 6
||(2.5: 2.5) 5.0
|Jan. 2 (inc.)
As the campaign reached its crescendo, more than two-thirds of ads on the 6 p.m. broadcast were campaign/political ads. Setting aside Jan. 2 due to incomplete data, the number of campaign/political ads peaked on Dec. 29 and 30, when 11 of 16 ads (68.8-percent) and 72.2-percent of ad time was political.
Looking at the details of ads on the 6 p.m. broadcast, one sees that the percentage of political ads roughly doubled from 28.4-percent in the week of Dec. 5-9 to 55.4-percent in the week of Dec. 26-30. Similarly the share of total ad time consisting of political ads roughly doubled from 29.4-percent in the week of Dec. 5-9 to 60.2-percent in the week of Dec. 26-30. The number of groups advertising also doubled from an average of four in the week of Dec. 5-9 to an average of 8.2 in the week of Dec. 26-30.
In terms of the number of ads run by the campaigns themselves versus super PACs and other groups (shown in gray as "c:sp" in the table), there appeared to be a fairly even split as the campaign reached its peak, while the total time tilted slightly towards the campaign ads over super PAC/other ads.