In an advertising sense, Iowa's numbers were very impressive. Over $45 million was spent on broadcast TV ads by 12 candidates and 18 groups. That is almost half the $107 million that has been spent in all the states thus far. Add in another $6 million spent on local cable by the candidates and Iowa tops the $50 million threshold for media expenditures. Not bad for a state that saw only $9 million in TV ad spending four years ago.
So what's next?
Tonight the campaigns that beat or exceed expectations in Iowa should expect a flood of campaign cash via the internet. Others that fail to meet expectations will start to use words like "firewall," and "we're on all the ballots in all the states" or "we're recalibrating our strategy towards February 5."
In essence, we're leaving a 12-month marathon lead up to Iowa and entering a 30-odd day run that will soon be labeled by the national press as "The Race to the Nomination" or maybe something wittier like "The Sprint to the Nomination." So what will this sprint mean for ad strategies?
As I see it, New Hampshire and South Carolina will now become the focus of the ad wars. With over $26 million in ad spending in New Hampshire so far, the ad wars will not look that much different to the viewers in the Granite State with the exception of a few more negative ads.
However, viewers in South Carolina will start to notice a change on their TV screens. Additionally, the TV in Michigan should see a flurry of activity from the likes of McCain and Romney, while the voters of Nevada should see a pick up in ads from the Democrats.
The wildcards here are the Feb. 5 states. How will Giuliani's skipping Iowa to focus on the late states pay off for his campaign? Will Feb. 5 provide a victory lap or a pile up for one or both of the parties? The campaigns will need to look for some creative ways to communicate with voters who are not used to voting this early in an election year. Campaigns will need to target the most committed and active voters first and then target the rest of the voters second. This will likely mean cable ads, radio ads and targeted TV buys in markets within this collection of states.
Either way, what happens tonight in Iowa will start a presidential election which will have a great impact on not only media strategies for the rest of this year but for presidential nominations in the future. Should be fun to watch, and a welcome break for the voters of Iowa -- until this spring when general-election ads return.
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Evan Tracey is the founder and chief operating officer of Campaign Media Analysis Group, a TNS Media Intelligence company. See his complete bio.