The Colorado Ad Campaign

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The Wesleyan Media Project (
1, 2) reported that in the period from Oct. 1-29, 2012 the Denver market was the top market in the country by volume of presidential ads.

This survey is based on a review of the hour-long FOX 31 News at 9 local newscasts in Denver, CO for the period from Sept. 10 to Nov. 5.  The sample includes newscasts on 46 days totaling approximately 40.2 hours.  A helpful volunteer did the recording.  Complicating matters, FOX televised the baseball playoffs and this sometimes pushed start times for the newscasts back and shortened them.  There are a handful missing days or partial recordings where the recording did not start on time or ran out at the end of a tape.  The 10 p.m. "Nightside" newscasts were also recorded on some days but that sample is not as consistent and those broadcasts were less dense in political ads; the "Nightside" ads are not considered in the analysis or charts but are included in the listings on lower part of the following pages for informational purposes.  Also, on a few days there was a single ad run right at the start of the broadcast; those were not included in the sample but should have been.  Overall, however, the sample provides a picture of the ad campaign in Denver, at least on FOX 31, in the final eight weeks of the campaign.

All told political ads from 26 different groups were seen (counting the Romney and Romney/RNC coordinated ads as one); of these 13 were from the presidential contest (Romney and seven allied groups, Obama and three allied groups, and Randall Terry) and 11 from the three congressional races; ads from Yes on 64 and Autism Speaks were seen as well.1  The highest number of different groups running political advertising on the News at 9 broadcast in any one day was 15 on Nov. 5.

As one would expect, the amount of political advertising increased as Election Day approached.  For most of September, political ad time accounted for a bit more than 50-percent of total ad time.  The first presidential debate was held in Denver on October 3; on October 1 and 2 the share of ad time consisting of political ads jumped to a bit over 80-percent.  After the debate the level returned to a bit higher than it had been before.  For the rest of the month into November the percentage of political ads/ad time increased each week.  On October 31 every ad aired in the broadcast was a political ad and on November 5, the day before Election Day, 30 of 31 ads were political ads.

Gross numbers give a sense of the intensity of advertising in various races.  The 40.2-hour sample had a total of 245.5 ad breaks containing 1,370 total ads comprising 688.81 ad minutes (11.48 hours).  Of those ads, 836 comprising 441.50 minutes (7.36 hours) were political ads.  Thus for the last eight weeks of the campaign, 61.02% of the ads and 64.09% of the ad time on these newscasts consisted of political ads. (The difference arises because the commercial ads include shorter 15-second ads and the political ads include longer one-minute ads).  In the overall sample ads/ad time from the presidential race (507 ads totaling 276.5 min.) led, followed by the three congressional races (323 ads totaling 162 min.), mostly from the 7th CD (Perlmutter/Coors...150 ads, 75.0 min.) and 6th CD (Coffman-Miklosi...134 ads, 67.5 min.) races; there were also a few ads from the 3rd CD race (Tipton-Pace...28 ads, 14.0 min.)  Yes on 64 ran a smattering of ads in the closing weeks and one ad from Autism Speaks was seen. 

Paring the sample to the same time period as the Virginia sample, Sept. 28-Nov. 5, produces somewhat different results as the amount of political advertising increases.  In approximately 28.8 hours of coverage, 174.5 ad breaks contained 968 total ads comprising 487.67 ad minutes (8.13 hours).  Of these ads, 630 comprising 334.5 minutes (5.57 hours) were political ads.  Thus for the last month of the campaign 65.08% of the ads and 68.59% of the ad time on these newscasts consisted of political ads.  Of these the majority were presidential (388 ads totaling 213.0 min.), followed by the three congressional races (236 ads--Coffman-Miklosi 112 (56.5 min.), Perlmutter-Coors 110 (55.0 min) and Tipton-Pace 14 (7.0 min.)--totaling 118.5 min.) and the handful of Yes on 64 ads and the one Autism Speaks ad.

The pie charts above show the relative numbers of different types of ads run on the News at 9 broadcasts over the last month-plus of the campaign.  Presidential ads accounted for 40.0% of all ads and 43.7% of ad time in that sub-sample; for the full eight weeks presidential ads were 37.0% of ads and 40.1% of ad time.  The next question to be considered is whether the mix of presidential, congressional and other ads changed during the course of the campaign.

The share of presidential ads fluctuated from 29.9% at the start of the sample period to a low of 22.1% during the week of Sept. 24 and continuied below 50% throughout the campaign until the last week when 62.6% of the ads were presidential and only 18.7% congressional (the same as for the week of Sept. 10).  During a couple of weeks (Sept. 24 and Oct. 15) viewers were seeing more ads from the three congressional races than from the presidential race.  The spike in the concentration of presidential ads at the close is interesting; possibly the presidential campaigns and allied groups had bought up the time on News at 9 in advance so that while the congressional campaigns and allied groups and committees would have liked to have run ads there was no time available on the newscast.

Next, taking a look at who was advertising in the presidential race, ads from the Obama and Romney campaigns, Priorities USA Action (Obama ally) and American Crossroads (Romney ally) were seen during all eight weeks.  The other groups weighed in sporadically.  For this small sample (one newscast on one station in one market in Denver over eight weeks), the Romney campaign and its allies spent more on advertising than did the Obama campaign and its allies.

Advertising by Obama/Allies and Romney/Allies on FOX 31 News at 9 Sept. 10-Nov. 5


# ads
42 + 3

140 + 20
ad min.
24.5 + 1.5

75.0 + 10.0
also seen: 3 ads (1.5 min.) Randall Terry

Finally, an interesting pattern was seen in the placement of ads.  Having the first ad in an ad break would seem to be advantageous.  There are viewers who use ad breaks to tend to errands, and ond can imagine that they would likely catch the first ad or least part of it on their way out.  Romney had a huge, overwhelming advantage in ads run in the first slot in the ad breaks.  It is open to conjecture as to whether advertisers can pay a premium to buy those first slots; alternatively, one can imagine that the person slotting the ads at the station was a Romney supporter doing his or her bit to support the candidate.

1. Sample includes ads from 26 groups.
By type:
Presidential-Obama and Allies: Obama for America, LCV Victory Fund, Planned Parenthood Votes, Priorities USA Action.
Presidential-Romney and Allies: Romney for President (and RNC/Romney coordinated),
RNC (independent expenditure), American Crossroads, American Future Fund, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Job Security, Crossroads GPS, Restore Our Future.
Presidential-Other: Randal Terry for President.
Congressional-Republican and Allies: Coffman for Congress, Coors for Congress, Tipton for Congress, NRCC.
Congressional-Democratic and Allies: Miklosi for Congress, Pace for Congress, Perlmutter for Congress, DCCC, House Majority PAC, AFSCME PEOPLE, SEIU COPE.
Others: Yes on 64, Autism Speaks.

AFSCME PEOPLE, American Crossroads, American Future Fund, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Job Security, Autism Speaks, Coffman for Congress, Coors for Congress, Crossroads GPS, DCCC, House Majority PAC, LCV Victory Fund, Miklosi for Congress, NRCC, Obama for America, Pace for Congress, Perlmutter for Congress, Planned Parenthood Votes, Priorities USA Action, RNC (independent expenditure), Restore Our Future, Romney (and RNC/Romney coordinated), Randall Terry for President, SEIU COPE, Tipton for Congress, Yes on 64.