Source : New York Times
When deciding where to run his television advertisements, President Bush is much more partial than Senator John Kerry to crime shows like ''Cops,'' ''Law & Order'' and ''JAG.'' Mr. Kerry leans more to lighter fare, like ''Judge Judy,'' ''The Ellen DeGeneres Show'' and ''Late Show with David Letterman.''
Those choices do not reflect either man's taste in television, but critical differences in the advertising strategies of their campaigns, which are spending more money for commercials than any other campaigns in presidential history.
Crime shows appeal to the Bush campaign because of its interest in reaching out to Republican men who are attracted to such programming. By contrast, the Kerry campaign is more interested in concentrating on single women, who tend to be drawn to shows with softer themes.
The patterns in the campaigns' advertising approaches appear in one of the most extensive studies of presidential advertising ever produced, which will be released Sunday by Nielsen Monitor-Plus and the Wisconsin Advertising Project, a research unit run by the University of Wisconsin's political science department. It is the first time Nielsen, best known for providing television ratings, has used its audience measurement and programming monitoring technologies to track political advertising in all 210 television markets for public consumption.
Together, the Bush and the Kerry campaigns have spent a record $180 million on advertising this election year, and the study sheds new light on where the campaigns see the most opportunity and where they are placing some of their most expensive bets.
The study, which covers only the spending on local television commercials, also highlights what areas of the country each campaign is trying to reach.
Mr. Kerry received tremendous assistance from outside groups that have run advertisements against Mr. Bush. It was not until the last few weeks that Mr. Kerry began to reach advertising parity with Mr. Bush, who had paused his advertising campaign.
But from early March through most of June, viewers in nearly every market where the campaigns were advertising saw more of Mr. Bush's commercials than Mr. Kerry's. According to the Wisconsin Advertising Project, when advertisements from the Media Fund, MoveOn.org and the A.F.L.-C.I.O. critical of Mr. Bush are counted, the imbalance is reversed, with viewers in nearly every market seeing more advertisements from Mr. Kerry and his supporters. (Mr. Kerry is not allowed by campaign laws to coordinate his advertising plans with the outside groups.)
Take the situation in this small city in eastern Wisconsin, Appleton, one of the five markets where Mr. Bush has advertised the most. Viewers in a typical household here have seen Mr. Bush's advertisements at least 101 times and Mr. Kerry's 79. But they have seen spots critical of Mr. Bush from the outside groups 46 times, according to the data, giving Democrats a combined advertising advantage.
Still, it is in rural towns like Pensacola, Fla., and Lima, Ohio, where Mr. Bush has tended to have more advertisements. Mr. Kerry and the liberal groups have built their advantages in large urban centers like Dayton, Ohio, where Mr. Kerry's campaign has placed its greatest advertising emphasis.
Matthew Dowd, Mr. Bush's chief campaign strategist, said his campaign had been running a uniform number of advertisements in all of its targeted markets, urban and rural.
The study also shows some striking similarities in the two campaigns' advertising strategies. The campaigns are directing their vast resources predominantly at two basic segments of the population -- women and the elderly -- through some of the most enduring programs on television.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry have placed two-thirds of their advertising resources this year on roughly the same 10 programs in 20 battleground states. Each candidate's top 10 list includes network morning programs like ''Today'' on NBC, local newscasts, and syndicated shows like ''Oprah,'' ''Wheel of Fortune'' and ''Dr. Phil,'' according to the study. Each of those programs' audiences is heavy either with women or people over 55.
According to the Nielsen data, advertisements from both candidates have reached more women than men and more older voters than younger ones by double-digit percentages in the various markets.
''That's where a lot of the swings are,'' said Mandy Grunwald, a longtime Democratic operative. ''Women are the late deciders; old people still disproportionately vote.''
''Wheel of Fortune'' and ''Jeopardy'' are typically considered good buys by both parties because they not only deliver large audiences of these prime target voters, but they also do so at lower prices than prime-time programs.
Ms. Grunwald said that campaigns traditionally buy time on television news programs because they deliver older audiences of both party affiliations who are interested in the news and, the logic goes, therefore interested enough to vote.
But it is where the campaigns diverge that says the most about their strategies. ''Elections are won in the margins, and there are marginal differences between the campaigns that show us different strategies of the campaigns,'' said Kenneth M. Goldstein, director of the Wisconsin Advertising Project and the author of the study.
The margins, he said, are primarily where the campaigns are trying to mobilize their most loyal supporters.
One of the biggest differences between the campaigns is apparent when it comes to the popular crime series that are now television staples. A list of the 100 programs in which Mr. Bush has most heavily advertised reveals that he has run at least 360 commercials during ''N.Y.P.D. Blue.'' The program does not show up on a similar list for Mr. Kerry. Likewise, while Mr. Bush's campaign has run at least 800 advertisements in the various ''Law & Order'' series, none of those programs were on Mr. Kerry's list.
Jon Hutchens, president of Media Strategies and Research, a Democratic media firm, said Mr. Bush's campaign was clearly trying to concentrate on Republican males. ''Particularly the audiences of 'Cops' and 'N.Y.P.D. Blue' are far more conservative, more male than female,'' he said. ''That's kind of his base buy: going more male than not.''
Mr. Kerry is not neglecting men, Mr. Hutchens said. But he is taking aim at a different sort: those at the older and younger end of the spectrum. That, Mr. Hutchens said, explains why Mr. Kerry has run nearly four times as many advertisements on CBS's ''Late Show with David Letterman'' -- a prime destination for younger men -- as Mr. Bush has. And unlike Mr. Kerry, Mr. Bush has not advertised on ''Late Night with Conan O'Brien'' on NBC or the ''Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn'' on CBS enough to register on Nielsen's list of top 100 shows.
Mr. Kerry's advertisements have seemed to focus even more heavily on single women, who are more likely to watch ''The Ellen DeGeneres Show,'' ''Living It Up With Ali & Jack'' and ''Judge Judy,'' a ''People's Court''-style program in which Mr. Kerry has advertised more than four times as much as Mr. Bush.
Mr. Kerry has also focused far more heavily than Mr. Bush on African-American voters, running 270 spots on ''The Parkers'' and ''The Steve Harvey Show,'' both of which feature black stars. Those programs do not show up on Mr. Bush's list of top 100 shows. The study did not include cable, where Mr. Kerry is advertising on the Black Entertainment Television network, among others, and Mr. Bush is advertising on networks like the Golf Channel and Fox Sports.
The president's advisers said they took Mr. Kerry's focus on black voters as a sign that he was worried about mobilizing a sector of the vote he should be able to count upon. Tad Devine, a senior strategist for Mr. Kerry, said the campaign was simply advertising most heavily where it believed it had the best chance of influencing undecided voters.
Indeed, a study by Scarborough Research found that at any given time of day in the three of the markets where Mr. Kerry is advertising most heavily, Dayton, Columbus and Milwaukee, up to a third of the audience considers itself independent.
Mr. Devine said it was Mr. Bush who seemed to be worried about his base voters, advertising more heavily than Mr. Kerry in rural areas like Appleton. Mr. Bush won the county in which Appleton sits, Outagamie, by nearly 7,000 votes in 2000.
But Doug Schoen, a Democratic pollster, said Mr. Bush appeared to be operating on a theory that if he can make big enough gains in rural areas, which are believed to be particularly open to his conservative message on cultural issues, he can carry the election.
''What Bush is really going to try to do is roll up big margins in rural, exurban areas,'' he said. ''He's going to win those areas. But if he wins 60, 65, 70 percent of the vote, then you have a different dynamic.''
© New York Times