Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Air War": Spending for Political Television Ads on KTVU: October & November 2014

The “air war” for the November 2014 election was not as intense in the San Francisco Bay Area as it was in past elections.  More than one million dollars were spent for political ads on KTVU (channel 2, Fox owned-and-operated station, Oakland) in October and November, 2014.  

Governor of California

Incumbent Governor Jerry Brown (D) spent a total of $394,840 on KTVU ads between October 8 and Election Day.  Brown spent $30,000 on a spot during the Giants-Royals World Series on October 26, $81,000 during the October 28 game and another $81,000 during the October 29 game.  Brown spent $14,000 on a spot during the October 19 Oakland Raiders game. Those four spots during sporting events cost Brown $210,000 (53% of his total KTVU ad spending).   

Political television commercials are lucrative not only for broadcasters, but also for the campaign’s advertising placement agents, who generally receive 15 percent of ad spending as commissions.  The Brown campaign’s agent was Sadler Strategic Media of Studio City (southern California).

Republican challenger Neel Kashkari spent $337,815 on KTVU ads between October 14 and Election Day.  Kashkari’s big splurge was $162,000 for a 60-second spot that ran during the World Series game on October 28 (nearly one-half of Kashkari's total KTVU ad spending was on this single advertisement; $162,000 is more than five times the California per capita money income of $29,551).  Kashkari also spent $60,000 for a single 60-second spot during the November 2nd 49ers game. 

Kashkari ran 30-second ads in mid-October.  In late October through Election Day, he ran 60-second spots.  KTVU mistakenly ran the 30-second spot during its 5 p.m. newscasts on October 30 and 31.  It charged for those spots, but compensated the Kashkari campaign by running the 60-second spots during the 5 p.m. newscasts on November 2 and 3 at no charge.  The Kashkari campaign’s agent was the Smart Media Group of Alexandria, Virginia. 

State Legislature: 16th Assembly District (East Bay: Orinda to Livermore)

The race for the 16th Assembly District (AD16) [East Bay: Tri-Valley, Walnut Creek (part), Lamorinda] was a rare state legislative contest that attracted television advertising on broadcast stations in 2014.

Legislative candidates in the San Francisco Bay Area usually avoid television broadcast advertising because they are an extremely inefficient means of reaching likely voters in a specific district.  The 2010 Census of Population found 7.15 million Bay Area residents.  The population of AD16 is 466,000, a mere 6.3 percent of Bay Area population.  Theoretically, this means that for every 1,000 KTVU viewers, just 63 reside in AD16.  Many of those 63 out of 1,000 viewers are not registered or are unlikely to vote.  The ad is mostly irrelevant to the other 937 out of 1000 viewers.

AD16 Democratic candidate Tim Sbranti apparently spent more money on KTVU ads in October and November 2014 than any other candidate for any other office.  From invoices reported as of November 10, 2014, the Sbranti campaign spent a total of $267,600 on KTVU ads.  These included $81,000 spent on a 30-second spot during the October 29 World Series game and $72,000 spent on a 30-second spot during the October 26 World Series game and $55,000 for a single 30-second spot during the October 11 Giants playoff game.  

Sbranti has been active in the statewide political affairs of the California Teachers Association union.  A single World Series spot bought by the Sbranti campaign cost more than the beginning or mid-range annual salary of the average California public school teacher at the elementary and high school levels and exceeded the highest annual salary of teachers at small school districts, according to California Department of Education statistics for the year 2011-12.  So the Sbranti campaign spent more in 30 seconds than most California teachers earn in an entire year.

The grand total of KTVU ad spending by the Sbranti campaign likely will rise as more invoices are disclosed in coming days because the Sbranti campaign signed contracts for other World Series ads that have not yet appeared in invoices.  Sbranti signed contracts for ads on KTVU during six of the seven World Series games; if those six spots are invoiced, Sbranti’s grand total for KTVU 2014 World Series ads will be $427,500.   

Sbranti spent $59,600 on ads during KTVU's morning and evening newcasts in the days leading up to Election Day (ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 per 30-second spot).  The Sbranti campaign’s agent was MBMG, Inc. (Milner Butcher Media Group) of Studio City in southern California.

Catharine Baker, Sbranti’s Republican challenger for the open Assembly seat, did not purchase any KTVU ads in 2014.  Spirit of Democracy California, a pro-Baker independent expenditure committee largely funded by multi-millionaire Charles Munger, Jr., executed an advertising agreement with KTVU on October 22.  Spirit of Democracy apparently placed ads on KTVU, but KTVU is declining to disclose when those ads ran and what those ads cost.  Non-federal "issue advertising" apparently is exempt from the FCC's political advertising disclosure requirements.  (If anyone has information about AD16-related TV advertising by Spirit of Democracy-California, especially the content of those ads, please share that information in the comments section below.)  Chariot LLC was Spirit of Democracy California's media purchasing agent.

Baker agreed to the California Fair Political Practices Commission's voluntary expenditure ceiling of $953,000 for Assembly candidates in the November 2014 election. Sbranti did not and therefore spent as much money as he wished (apparently a half million dollars on KTVU commercials alone).

Ms. Baker narrowly won AD16.  She became the first Republican to capture a Democratic-held Assembly seat in the East Bay since 1980, when Bill Baker (R-Danville) won Dan Boatwright’s (D-Concord) vacant Assembly seat in Contra Costa County and Gib Marguth (R-Livermore) defeated incumbent Assemblyman Floyd Mori (D-Pleasanton).

Congress: 17th District (South Bay: Fremont to Sunnyvale & Cupertino)

The only congressional campaign that purchased KTVU ads in fall 2014 was that of incumbent Michael Honda (D) in the 17th congressional district [South Bay: Newark and part of Fremont in Alameda County; Milpitas, northern part of San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and Cupertino in Santa Clara County).  Challenger Ro Khanna (D) bought KTVU ads in spring 2014, but apparently did not purchase KTVU ads in the fall.

As with Bay Area Assembly and state Senate races, spending on broadcast TV ads for Bay Area congressional contests makes little sense.  Each congressional district was a population of approximately 703,000 or 9.8% of the entire Bay Area.  Theoretically, 902 out of every 1,000 KTVU viewers cannot vote in the CD17 race.

The Honda campaign bought $95,030 worth of ads on KTVU in October and November 2014, mostly during newscasts and syndicated sitcom re-runs (“Big Bang Theory,” “Modern Family”).   The Honda campaign spent $2,800 each for at least five 30-second spots in the week preceding Election Day during KTVU's "10 o'clock News." Honda’s agent was Adelstein & Associates of Chicago.

Honda narrowly defeated Khanna in November 2014.