This is Part II of CalPolitical’s analysis of political advertising on San Francisco Bay Area broadcast television in the days leading up to the November 2010 election (a.k.a. "The Air War"). This article focuses on advertising for and against the various statewide ballot measures. Part I discussed candidate advertising.
CalPolitiCal compiled all political ads that appeared during the 11 p.m. newscasts on four television stations in the San Francisco Bay Area on the six nights leading up to the November 2010 election.
The 11 p.m. “late news” generally is the most-watched local newscast produced by a particular television station, according to the November 2010 Nielsen ratings. CalPolitiCal’s analysis included the following four newscasts:
(1) KRON’s “KRON 4 News at 11 p.m.” (16,000 viewers, Independent/My Network station)
(2) KPIX’s “CBS 5 Eyewitness News at 11 p.m.” (49,000 viewers, CBS owned-and-operated)
(3) KGO’s “ABC 7 News at 11 p.m.” (48,000 viewers, ABC owned-and-operated)
(4) KNTV’s “NBC Bay Area News at 11 p.m.” (28,000 viewers, NBC owned-and-operated)
Omitted were KTVU’s “Ten o’clock News” (88,000 viewers), which airs an hour earlier, the Spanish language 11 p.m. newscasts on KDTV (29,000 viewers) and KSTS (3,000 viewers) and the hour-long Mandarin News at 10 p.m. on KTSF (channel 26). The 11 p.m. newscasts on KPIX, KGO and KNTV are 35 minutes long; KRON’s 11 p.m. newscast generally ends by 11:30. Perhaps to take advantage of the abundant political advertising, KRON temporarily expanded its 11 p.m. newscast to 35 minutes during the weeks leading up to the November 2010 election.
The “Study Period” included six nights: Wednesday, October 27th through Monday, November 1st (Election Eve). Television commercials that ran immediately before, during and immediately after the 11 p.m. newscasts were included.
Ballot measure and issue ad spots tend to be much more expensive than candidate advertising on broadcast television. In the 60 days preceding a general election, television advertising for candidates generally may be purchased at "lowest unit rates."
"Jobs" was the keyword of the November 2010 election. "Jobs" was worked into many ads for propositions. It was the major theme of the successful "No on 24" television campaign and a major point in many of the "No on 23" TV ads, for example.
I. Proposition 19 (Marijuana Legalization)
No ads supporting or opposing Proposition 19 aired during the Study Period. "No on 19" won with 53.5% of the statewide vote.
II. Proposition 20 (Citizens Redistricting Commission-Congressional Districts)
“Yes on 20” ran a total of ten spots during the study period, all of them the “children playing marbles” ad. Four of the ten spots ran on KRON; two spots apiece ran on KPIX, KGO and KNTV. “Yes on 20” ran ads on all four stations on Election Eve. "Yes on 20" won the election with 61.3% of the statewide vote.
III. Proposition 21 (Vehicle License Fee for Parks)
“Yes on 21” ran at least 15 spots during the six-day Study Period. “Yes on 21” ads ran seven times on KPIX, five on KGO and three on KNTV. None ran on KRON’s 11 p.m. newscast. Many of the “Yes on 21” spots were “bookends;” in many airings, the same 15-second ad ran at the beginning and end of each commercial break. The favored “Yes on 21” ad changed during the Study Period. Whereas on October 27th the ad ending with the girl at the drinking fountain was mostly commonly aired, by October 29th the ad with the fox at the end was most commonly used.
No “No on 21” ads were aired during the Study Period. "No on 21" won the election with 57.3% of the statewide vote.
IV. Proposition 22 (Ban on State Borrowing from Local Governments)
No ads supporting or opposing Proposition 22 aired during the Study Period. "Yes on 22" won with 60.7% of the statewide vote.
V. Proposition 23 (Suspension of AB 32, Global Warming Act of 2006)
During the weeks leading up to the November 2010 election, the main 30-second ad against Proposition 23 was "Forward Backward." The YouTube posting characterized this ad, "Our first TV spot against Prop 23, the deceptive ballot measure bankrolled by two Texas oil companies, that would give them the license to pollute our air." Windmills and solar panels were shown. It emphasized onscreen "California 500,000 clean energy jobs and growing". Onscreen text said that Proposition 23 was "Dirty Energy" that "Would keep California addicted to oil" and "Threatens 500,000 California jobs."
On or about October 29th, a new 30-second ad began appearing on Bay Area television, "Enough." The image at the beginning was of an oil refinery with the phase "Haven't we had enough of dependence on oil?" on the screen and spoken by a male narrator. This ad repeatedly referred to "two Texas oil companies." "Two Texas Oil Companies Prop 23 would kill clean energy jobs," "Two Texas Oil Companies' Prop 23 hurts California's economy," "Two Texas Oil Companies' Prop 23 increases pollution" and "Two Texas Oil Companies' Prop 23 increases health risks" were other onscreen messages. (The anti-Texas theme had particular resonance in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time because the San Francisco Giants were in contention with the Texas Rangers for baseball's "World Series.") The ad indirectly alluded to the Louisiana "Deep Horizon" oil spill by showing video of a burning offshore oil rig. The final onscreen message in the ad was "STOP the Dirty Energy Proposition NO on 23."
The disclaimer for the "Enough" ad said that it was "Paid for by No on 23 - Californians to Stop the Dirty Energy Proposition. Sponsored by Business and Environmental Organizations for Clean Energy and Jobs. Major funding by Thomas Steyer and the National Wildlife Federation." Thomas Steyer is founder and co-senior managing partner of Farallon Capital Management, LLC.
During the Study Period, "No on 23" ran two ads focusing on public health problems associated with "dirty energy." The 30-second American Lung Association ad featured Jane Warner, president of the American Lung Association in California. The 15-second ad featured Dr. Arti Desai. The YouTube posting for Dr. Desai's ad stated, "Pediatrician Dr. Arti Desai, M.D. talks about why the American Academy of Pediatrics, CA urges a NO vote on Prop 23. Prop 23 would weaken air pollution standards, threatening the health of children and all Californians."
On or about October 29th, "No on 23" also introduced the 15-second "Scales" ad. The YouTube posting described this ad, "This spot weighs who supports and opposes Prop 23, the Dirty Energy Proposition."
Twenty-four (24) “No on 23” spots aired during the Study Period: eleven spots on KGO, eight on KPIX and five on KNTV. No "No on 23" spots aired on "KRON 4 News at 11 p.m." during the Study Period. Some these spots were 15-second ones. On Election Eve, one "No on 23" spot aired apiece on KPIX (Enough), KGO (Scales) and KNTV (Scales).
In addition, KTVU aired half-hour "No on 23" paid programs at 11 p.m. on Sunday, October 31st (displacing "A Second Look," a KTVU production) and Monday, November 1st (displacing a "Seinfeld" re-run).
No “Yes on 23” ads aired during the Study Period.
"No on 23" won with 61.6% of the statewide vote and 72.7% of the Bay Area vote. "No on 23" won all nine Bay Area counties: Alameda (76.2%), Contra Costa (67.4%), Marin (78.2%), Napa (65.0%), San Francisco (82.3%), San Mateo (73.3%), Santa Clara (70.2%), Solano (60.8%) and Sonoma (73.1%).
VI. Proposition 24 (Repeal of Corporate Tax Breaks)
Both sides of Proposition 24 were evenly matched during the Study Period. Eight spots aired favoring Proposition 24 and eight spots ran opposing it. Proposition 24 lost statewide (58.1% no) and in the Bay Area, but the Bay Area outcome was close (49.5% yes, 50.5% no).
A. Yes on 24 - LOST (41.9% of statewide vote, 49.5% of Bay Area vote)
The main “Yes on 24” ad was called “Handout.” The YouTube posting says, “Vote Yes on Prop 24 -- because it's time to give our SCHOOLS a break, not the big corporations.”
“Handout” featured Martha Millan-Schimon, a fourth grade teacher in Bakersfield. She began the ad by stating to the viewer, “State budget cuts are crippling my classroom.” The closing onscreen message was “VOTE YES ON PROP 24 GIVE OUR SCHOOLS A BREAK, NOT THE BIG CORPORATIONS.” The disclaimer stated, “Paid for by Yes on 24, the Tax Fairness Act. Sponsored by taxpayers and public employee groups, California Teachers Association Issues PAC and America’s Families First, Inc.”
A second “Yes on 24” ad began running on October 28th, which included teacher Tamara Carr, an elementary school teacher in Pittsburg (Contra Costa County).
"Yes on 24" aired eight spots total on 11 p.m. newscasts during the Study Period, two apiece on KRON, KPIX, KGO and KNTV. "Yes on 24" aired no ads on the weekend 11 p.m. newscasts (Oct. 30th and Oct. 31th). On Election Eve, "Yes on 24" aired ads just on KPIX and KGO, the two highest-rated 11 p.m. newscasts.
"Yes on 24" won in three Bay Area counties: Alameda (55.7%), Marin (50.2%) and San Francisco (59.5%).
B. No on 24 - WON (58.1% of statewide vote, 50.5% of Bay Area vote)
“No on 24” ran two ads during the Study Period. The first “No on 24” ad (dubbed “More Layoffs”) consisted of a series of people completing each others’ sentences as they criticized Proposition 24. The transcript of the last 40 percent of the ad underscores its simple (and simplistic) message, “Prop 24 would force more layoffs. More layoffs. More layoffs. And that’s something that hurts everyone. Everyone. Everyone. Stop the Jobs Tax. Vote No on 24.” The ad left viewers with the words, "more layoffs" and "everyone" echoing through their minds.
The YouTube posting stated, “A Giant Step Backward on California's Road to Recovery. Prop. 24 throws roadblock after roadblock in front of the state's economic recovery and threatens decades of vital service cuts. The slower our recovery, the fewer tax revenues we'll have to fund our schools and hospitals and roads. With 2 million Californians out of work and an unemployment rate higher than almost every other state, we need to encourage job growth, not penalize it.”
To underscore the “jobs” message, the only onscreen text during the first 25 seconds is “Up to 322,000 Jobs Lost.” The disclaimer at the end of the ad stated, “Paid for by No on 24-Stop the Jobs Tax, a coalitions of taxpayers, employers, small businesses, educators and hi tech and bio technology organizations, with major funding from Genetech and General Electric Company including aggregated contributions.”
The second “No on 24” ad, “Job Killer,” featured a man in a white apron who presumably was a small hardware store owner on the typical "Main Street." This man spoke to the viewer throughout the ad as he walked about the hardware store. His opening lines: “Small businesses are struggling. Over two million Californians have lost their jobs. And now Sacramento politicians are promoting Proposition 24, a jobs tax and a job killer.” In a YouTube posting dated October 21, 2010, “NoProp24” stated, “Watch our new ad! Prop 24 is a job killer that is opposed by EVERY major newspaper in California!”
The disclaimer on “Job Killer” said, “Paid for by No on 24-Stop the Jobs Tax, a coalition of taxpayers, employers, small businesses, educators & high tech and biotechnology organizations, with major funding from Cisco Systems and Viacom.” (Apparently a hardware store owner made for a better “small business” than Cisco and Viacom.) (See Part I of the "Air War" post for discussion about Meg Whitman's "Job Killer" TV ads.)
“More Layoffs” ran five times during the Study Period, four times on KRON and once on KGO. It did not run on the KPIX and KNTV 11 p.m. newscasts during the Study Period. “Job Killer” ran three times during the Study Period, once apiece on KRON, KPIX and KGO’s 11 p.m. newscasts.
"No on 24" won in six Bay Area counties: Contra Costa (53.8%), Napa (57.7%), San Mateo (51.3%), Santa Clara (56.1%), Solano (55.9%) and Sonoma (53.0%).
VII. Proposition 25 (Majority Vote for the Legislature to Pass the Budget)
A. Yes on 25 - WON (55.1% of statewide vote, 66.6% of Bay Area vote)
The only “Yes on 25” ad that ran during the Study Period was “Big Check.” The tagline that was stated four times in the ad (twice verbally and twice in on-screen writing) was “No budget, no pay.” The main feature of the ad was a fictitious $4.9 million check representing pay to state legislators during the 100 days that the state budget was not passed on time. As a hand tore up the check, the narrator stated, “This ends with Prop. 25.” Later a yellow highlighter pen is seen coloring the phrase “permanently forfeit” as the narrator stated, “With Prop. 25, legislators permanently forfeit their pay and benefits for every day the budget is late.”
The phrase “majority vote” did not appear until the 22nd second (spoken by the male narrator) and never appeared once on the screen. There was no mention of the existing two-thirds vote requirement to pass state budgets through each house of the Legislature.
“Big Check” ran 14 times during the Study Period: four times on KRON, three times on KPIX, four times on KGO and three times on KNTV. It ran on no 11 p.m. newscasts on October 27th. It ran on all 11 p.m. newscasts except KPIX on Election Eve.
"Yes on 25" won all nine Bay Area counties: Alameda (70.7%), Contra Costa (62.8%), Marin (68.4%), Napa (60.0%), San Francisco (75.8%), San Mateo (65.6%), Santa Clara (62.7%), Solano (59.3%) and Sonoma (67.2%).
B. No on 25 - LOST (44.9% of statewide vote, 33.4% of Bay Area vote)
“I’ll Drink to That – No on 25” was only “No on 25” ad that ran during the Study Period. The YouTube description of the ad stated, “Our ad, titled "I'll Drink to That -- No on 25″ highlights the loophole in Prop 25 that would allow the State Legislature to raise its tax-free expense accounts, known as per diems, with a simple majority vote, but would do nothing to ensure an on-time, balanced budget. The ad also draws attention to language hidden in Prop 25 that would make it easier for majority-vote tax increases.”
This ad featured five well-dressed people who are presumably state legislators seated at a table in what was presumably a fancy restaurant. They are served fine wine and fancy desserts. The ad subtly conveys that the legislators have spent long hours there celebrating as all of the other tables are empty at the end of the ad and the tuxedoed waiter glances at his watch. The opening narration states, “While many Californians are struggling, many politicians are living it up at taxpayer expense.” The closing narration said, “Put a stop to politicians’ higher taxes and spending. Vote No on 25.”
The onscreen message at the end of the ad stated that it was “Paid for by Stop Hidden Taxes – No on 25/Yes on 26, a coalition of taxpayers and employers, with major funding from CA Business PAC, sponsored by CA Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Action Committee PAC.”
“No on 25” ran spots on 11 p.m. newscasts just during the first two days of the Study Period (Oct. 27th and Oct. 28th). It ran a total of five spots during those days. Two spots ran on “CBS 5 Eyewitness News at 11 p.m.” on Oct. 27th and one spot apiece on KPIX, KGO and KNTV on Oct. 28th. “No on 25” did not advertise on KRON’s 11 p.m. newscast during the Study Period.
"No on 25" won no Bay Area county.
VIII. Proposition 26 (Supermajority to Pass New Taxes & Fees)
Proposition 26 is regarded is one of the most consequential ballot measures passed in the November 2010 election. It has major effects on fiscal policy at the state and local levels.
A. Yes on 26 - WON (52.5% of statewide vote); LOST in Bay Area (41.8%)
No overt “Yes on 26” ads ran during the Study Period (the “No on 25” ad nominally also was a “Yes on 26” ad, but only in the disclaimer at its end). "Yes on 26" ran ads on Bay Area broadcast television before the Study Period. "Yes on 26" apparently suspended its television advertising on Bay Area broadcast TV before the Study Period.
"I just love fees!" was a 30-second "Yes on 26" television ad. It was uploaded to YouTube by "StopHiddenTaxes" on October 12th. The YouTube posting stated, "Vote YES on Prop 26 to protect our right to vote on local taxes." The ad depicted a group of well-dressed men and women sitting around a conference table, presumably a gathering of lobbyists and/or public officials. The highlight was when the man at the head of the table (who looked like a distant relative of corrupt former U.S. House Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay) gleefully announced to the gathering, "I just love fees!", curling his fingers as if to form quotation marks. The men and women at the table then smiled and laughed.
The ad began with with a darkened screen with the words, "Behind Closed Doors". The other onscreen messages were "Yes on 26: Closes Tax Loophole," "YES on 26: Voter Approval for Higher Taxes" and "YES on 26." The onscreen disclaimer read, "Paid for by Stop Hidden Taxes - No on 25/Yes on 26, a coalition of taxpayers and employers, with major funding from CA Business PAC, sponsored by CA Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Action Committee PAC."
Versions of this ad ran on KICU's "Bay Area News at 7 p.m." on October 21st (7:21 p.m.), KGO's "ABC News Nightline" on October 22nd (11:56 p.m.) and KNTV's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on October 23rd (12:09 a.m.). By the beginning of the Study Period on October 27th, "Yes on 26" ads apparently had vanished from Bay Area TV airwaves.
Although "Yes on 26" won statewide, it lost in the Bay Area. "Yes on 26" won in two Bay Area counties: Napa (51.1% yes) and Solano (53.5% yes).
B. No on 26 - LOST (47.5% of statewide vote); WON in Bay Area (58.2%)
“No on 26” ran a series of 15-second ads. The YouTube posting with the ads stated,
“SCN produced "Gulf Horizon," "Cigarette Man," and "Oil Derrick," as a set of 15 second spots designed to educate voters on the environmental consequences of California Proposition 26. Often, the spots were aired back-to-back or as book ends to commercial breaks.
"Gulf Horizon" served as a stark reminder of the recent consequences of allowing corporations to evade paying for the environmental damage they cause. Visually, the ad eliminated jarring cuts by simulating the motion of a camera panning across boxes of images and footage. This technique gave the spot the illusion of being longer than just 15 seconds.
On "Cigarette Man," SCN partnered with digital animators to design and create a walking talking cigarette pack to deliver the Big Tobacco's message that, "You pay so we don't have to!"
In creating "Oil Derrick," SCN again partnered with digital animators to design a giant robot built entirely out of rigs, derricks and fuel pumps. "Oil Derrick" was like no other political ad, and the robot was like no other political spokesman.”
Common to all three ads were onscreen quotations from the San Jose Mercury News that Proposition 26 was “Sponsored largely by oil, tobacco and alcohol companies” and from the Los Angeles Times that Proposition 26 “Makes it extremely difficult to charge businesses for the damage they cause.”
The disclaimer at the end of the ads stated that they were “Paid for by No on 26, teachers, police and other public and private employee groups protecting taxpayers, Democratic State Central Committee of California and Thomas Steyer.”
These ads were difficult to monitor because they were so brief. At least 20 of these 15-second ads ran on 11 p.m. newscasts during the six-day Study Period. “Cigarette Man” ran on at least one 11 p.m. newscast every night; it ran at least once on each station, a total of at least nine spots. At least six spots of “Oil Derrick” ran on 11 p.m newscasts during the Study Period. At least five spots of “Gulf Horizon” ran during the Study Period.
"No on 26" lost statewide, but won in seven Bay Area counties: Alameda (62.5% no), Contra Costa (53.5% no), Marin (66.1% no), San Francisco (69.9% no), San Mateo (58.9% no), Santa Clara (52.9% no) and Sonoma (58.5% no).
IX. Proposition 27 (Repeal Citizens Redistricting Commission)
No television ads aired supporting or opposing Proposition 27. Perhaps to avoid confusion, the "Yes on 20/No on 27" campaign made no overt mention of its opposition to Proposition 27 in its "Yes on 2o" ad. "No on 27" won with 59.5% of the statewide vote.