Iowa, N.H., S.C. Markets Win Big in Primary Race

Upended Schedule and Open Field Lead Buyers to Concentrate Spending

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Despite the mad rush of states pushing up their primary dates, so far the bulk of the advertising money is being dumped into the old reliables: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Source: TNS's Campaign Media Analysis Group


Four years ago there were ads in Texas, Arizona, Washington and Oklahoma as Democrat Howard Dean sought to force rivals to widen their focus. Not this time around. Facing the daunting prospect of state-by-state ad buys in numerous states -- among them the high-cost ad markets of California and Florida -- candidates so far are focusing their efforts on TV stations and cable companies in just the three states, according to spending figures from TNS Media Intelligence's Campaign Media Analysis Group. The only exception: an early $280,000 buy in Florida by Mitt Romney. But even Mr. Romney is advertising mainly in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Total spending, $7.9 million through Aug. 6, is well ahead of four years ago. Of course, last time around, only the Democrats were conducting a heated primary; they had spent $2.8 million going into August. Now, large fields of candidates are duking it out in both parties. Spending in Iowa this year is $3.1 million, New Hampshire is $1.9 million and South Carolina is $200,000. National cable has drawn $1.8 million (compared with $7,000 four years ago), mainly from the Romney campaign.

Iowa, N.H. numbers up
The Iowa and New Hampshire numbers are way up from 2003, when they were $860,000 and $360,000 respectively. Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts also have benefited from the New Hampshire primary. Vermont stations have pulled in $154,000; Maine stations, $230,000; and Massachusetts stations, $172,000.

Spending in South Carolina is roughly the same as it was four years ago, unaffected by primary shifts in other states.

Political strategists say the shifts by big states -- combined with the large number of candidates -- have put a premium on doing well in the first three.

"The amounts of money in the follow-up states is so big, you can't rationally hope for a huge buy in California. So resources depend on momentum," said Joe Slade White, whose firm is handling Sen. Joe Biden's advertising.

First states key
Mr. Slade White adds that even for front-runners, the nearly 20 states set to vote on Feb. 5, a date being called Super Duper Tuesday, make the first states key.

Jeff Bartlett, general manger of WMUR-TV, the Hearst-Argyle ABC affiliate in Manchester, N.H., said the station sees little evidence of declining interest.

"In terms of attention and importance, it's not diminished," he said. "You can't campaign in 20 states. Nobody has the time to do it. It's probably made Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina more important."
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