Mitt Romney loves him some local cable advertising.
A new analysis by Nielsen shows the Republican presidential candidate placed nearly 5,000 commercials on local cable systems and regional channels during the first quarter, the largest amount among leading candidates. Second: Rick Santorum, whose campaign peppered the airwaves (or in this case the wire-waves) with 3,157 local cable spots.
The data points offer an interesting way of looking at political ad strategy among presidential rivals, illustrating widely differing approaches to local television. Santorum, before bowing out of the 2012 race, was the most even-handed among five candidates tracked. His campaign devoted 34% of local TV spots to cable, versus 59% for over-the-air TV. (The remaining units tracked by Nielsen went to local radio.) Most imbalanced: incumbent Barack Obama, whose media buyers ordered up just 66 local/regional cable spots, or less than 1%, while devoting 83% to local broadcast TV.
In total, Nielsen says the five candidates it tracked placed 66,000 commercials on local media, with Romney alone accounting for more than half of those units. Obama made up 11% of the total.
Our take: Although spot TV was the favored of the three local mediums, representing 75% of all ad units, local cable had a reasonably strong showing, outpacing total radio units and taking a double-digit share of units for three of five candidates. Of course, unit measurements are just that -- a count of how many commercials were tracked. From the data Nielsen shared publicly, we don't know when the ads ran -- prime time, early fringe, in the wee hours -- or what rates they commanded. Still, the Q1 numbers offer an interesting top-down view of how prominent presidential candidates divided their campaigns. Given Romney's all-but certain victory as the Republican nominee, the fact that he devoted a meaningful share of spots to local cable offers up a bragging point for the medium.
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