What $30 Million Gets in TV Ads

If you missed the news on Friday, or haven’t watched television at all this week, the newly minted presidential candidate Michael R. Bloomberg made a splashy and expensive entrance into the 2020 race, dropping more than $30 million for one week’s worth of television ads across the country.

It’s the most expensive week for a presidential candidate in a U.S. primary election in history, expanding the political ad inundation well beyond the confines of Iowa and New Hampshire markets.

And it appears to keep growing. As I wrote this sentence, Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm, reported that Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign just spent an additional $135,000 for ads on cable networks this week.

But what, exactly, does $30 million buy?

Essentially, it will buy Mr. Bloomberg national name recognition within a week. While he is a household name in New York City, and to a lesser extent in the northeast, the former mayor and billionaire businessman isn’t universally known beyond that.

The $30 million will bring Mr. Bloomberg’s rotation of three ads to 99 local markets and a national audience. Very, very often.

In the two biggest markets in Texas — Houston and Dallas — Mr. Bloomberg is spending a combined $2.3 million. In Los Angeles, it’s $1.9 million. And $1.1 million in Miami.

Those four markets alone represent more political advertising for this week than the entire rest of the field has spent combined. It’s also more than many campaigns have spent on television at all.

More than a third of his spend — roughly $13.7 million — is being used in the 16 states that vote on Super Tuesday, including smaller markets. He’s spending $58,000 in Bangor, Maine, $92,00 in Tulsa, Okla., and $51,530 in Jonesboro, Ark., according to Advertising Analytics. Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign plans to skip the first four states and make a big push for a strong showing on Super Tuesday.

The programming selections by Mr. Bloomberg are a mix: local news; prime time hits like “Dancing With the Stars” and “The Voice”; daytime television like “The View” and “Judge Judy”; and late night talk shows like “Late Night With Stephen Colbert” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

“Wheel of Fortune” is a favorite show of political advertisers because of its high-ranking syndicated viewership that skews older. Mr. Bloomberg is running his “Promises” ad on 15 different markets during Monday’s episode of “Wheel of Fortune,” including multiple ads in one episode in Little Rock, Ark., and Fresno, Calif.

But for those who may be concerned that the Bloomberg campaign ads could inject politics into the safe space of Thanksgiving football, there is some hope: According to Advertising Analytics, there are no Bloomberg campaign reservations in local markets during Thursday’s games.

However, a disclaimer: His campaign has made $7 million in national reservations, which could theoretically come during the game.

Let’s Geaux Saints! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Credit…Elizabeth Frantz for The New York Times

Google and Twitter just restricted political advertising on their platforms. Facebook has signaled they’re weighing similar changes.

As the traditional digital advertisement space is becoming more turbulent, United We Win, a “super PAC” supporting Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, is turning to a vast market of digital influence often left untouched by politics: influencer marketing.

The phrase refers to paying people with large social media followings — celebrities, athletes and personalities — to hawk a product to their followers using their organic reach.

The effort by United We Win was first reported by BuzzFeed News, which saw the group advertise on AspireIQ, a site that matches brands to influencers. The PAC was offering $110 to $520 for influencers to post positive messages about Mr. Booker.

“This is simply another way to engage dedicated grass-roots supporters online, and those supporters will be compensated for their time in the same way that more traditional campaign efforts like canvassing are also often compensated,” said Philip Swibinski, a spokesman for the group.

The group is both posting the opportunity on sites like AspireIQ and trying to make direct contact with influencers. Though it would welcome a massive social media celebrity like Kim Kardashian to join its cause, it’s also hoping to target smaller influencers in more niche followings, like those in favor of marijuana legalization who may support Mr. Booker’s efforts to pass a bill in the Senate to legalize the drug.

The Booker campaign, however, did not seem thrilled.

“This is nothing to do with our campaign and this isn’t a tactic our campaign employs,” said Sabrina Singh, a spokeswoman for Mr. Booker’s campaign.

We often highlight presidential campaign ads in this space, but today we’re making an exception for the Los Angeles supervisor election. The City Council president, Herb Wesson, is running for county supervisor. His son, Doug, is addicted to crack cocaine, and as his mother describes in the ad, he is “often homeless.”

The two ads follow Mr. Wesson as he searches the homeless community in Los Angeles for Doug, who has “gone missing again.” Armed with little more than a picture of Doug and a resigned but hopeful countenance, Mr. Wesson treks through scenes of homelessness — sidewalk tents and tarps that extend for blocks — that are painfully familiar in Los Angeles.

The message

For Mr. Wesson’s campaign, the ads deliver on what is often derided as a political cliché but in this instance is brutally true: This time, it’s personal. His fight to end homelessness in Los Angeles, which has the largest outdoor homeless population in the country, is detailed by his wife in a voice over, while the camera follows each step and conversation trying to track down his son.

At the end of the second ad, Mr. Wesson finds his son, skipping to him before a lengthy embrace. After 50 seconds of a bleak present, the reunion offers another message equally important for his campaign: hope. “You pray for a happy ending,” his wife says, as the father and son walk down the street. “Maybe this time.”

The takeaway

The best political ads break past the rhythms that dictate modern campaigns. “Morning in America” from Ronald Reagan’s 1984 campaign, and “America” from Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign, resonated with broad optimistic narratives that built on ideals of an American foundation.

Mr. Wesson’s ad, however, takes a different tack: brutal honesty. The plight of a father searching for his drug-addicted son amid the tent cities of Los Angeles depicts just how broad the crisis of homelessness is in the country’s second-largest city. It’s an issue greater than one campaign for city supervisor. But the ads also make it starkly central.

On Politics will return Monday, Dec. 2. Happy Thanksgiving!

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