Monday, March 26, 2012

Tester Up First: Tester Campaign Launches its First Ad

This morning, Montana's airwaves--which have already been inundated by advertising sponsored by outside groups variously attacking Senator Tester or Congressman Rehberg--received yet another campaign ad. This one, however, is different. First, it's actually sponsored by one of the candidates: Senator Tester. Second, it is a positive ad. Watch it below.

A couple of quick points. First, campaigns generally begin with positive, bio spots introducing (or re-introducing as is the case here) the candidate. After some time making people feel good about the candidate, campaigns move into the argument phase, where the candidate makes arguments about why they are the best choice and the opponent is the worst choice. Finally, in the closing weeks, we'll probably see some talking head ads with the candidate making their final pitch and asking citizens for their vote. As expected, the Tester campaign is proceeding as one might expect and anticipate.

Second, according to Mike Dennison's article in the Billings Gazette this morning (read here), the buy is $60,000. One of my sources tells me the buy is actually $53,000--and not a statewide buy at 1,000 Gross Ratings Points as I initially wrote. This buy is only 500 GRP in Billings, and 250 in other markets. So, the buy is not as big and extensive as I had been led to believe. Of course, one might argue that to have an effect--given the Internet and other ways to push ads--that the initial buy might not have to be as great.

Third, the positive ad is long on biography and short on issues. Again, not unusual. That's not what this ad is really aiming to do. It is designed to make Montanans remember why they like Tester: He's a farmer who works his own fields, he's friendly, and he could be your neighbor. Negative ads, for all their alleged faults, are the ads which focus more on issue based concerns. The ad is not devoid of issue content, but it is general and vague.

Finally, it is hard to say whether this buy is early or not. Given the changes in campaign finance and the fact that outside groups have been spending money since April of last year--and much of that has been negative--I'm led to believe that it is surprising that ads haven't gone up BEFORE now. Citizens United did change the nature of the campaign game, so many of us are learning as we go. The next question is: How long will we stay in the first advertising phase before moving into the argument phase?

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