tampabay.com

On local TV, it's ads nauseam

By MELANIE AVE, ALISA ULFERTS, ADAM SMITH
Published November 3, 2006


If you think you are seeing more of the candidates than your own family these days, you may be right.

From grainy photos and empty chairs to bulldozers and wads of cash, Tampa Bay has aired more campaign TV ads than any place else in the country, Nielsen Media Research said Thursday. Los Angeles is No. 2.

"They're on all the time. They're really annoying," said St. Petersburg resident Liz Alford. "You think they're going to say something valuable, but they just blow each other away."

Tampa Bay doesn't just claim the top media market but the top media candidate: No one in the country has aired more TV ads than Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, Nielsen found.

"It hasn't run yet," Crist said when asked which of his ads was his favorite. But he promised it would promote him rather than attack his opponent, Democrat Jim Davis, who has aired slightly fewer than half the number of ads as Crist.

"I think I, like most people, prefer the positive spots," Crist said.

Not including money spent by the Republican Party, Crist's campaign spent about $6-million on media buys between Aug. 1 and Oct. 15, the time studied by Nielsen.

Political experts weren't surprised by Nielsen's findings.

"You've got the highest-spending congressional race in the country and the highest-spending state Senate race in Florida, and you've got every statewide candidate battling for that market," said Democratic pollster Dave Beattie.

The Tampa Bay market is the nation's 12th-largest with 1.7-million households with televisions.

And it's Florida's biggest media market and home to the biggest concentration of swing voters. Nearly one in four votes statewide comes from that market.

"It makes sense," said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Mark Bubriski. "I think it's one of the biggest bellwether areas in the country."

Bay News 9 general manager Elliott Wiser attributed the Tampa Bay market's ranking to the two gubernatorial candidates, who are local.

Crist, the attorney general, is from St. Petersburg. And Davis, a U.S. representative, is from Tampa.

"If you compare it to governor's race four years ago, it's a little more (advertising)," Wiser said. "Compared to the presidential race, it's a little bit less.

"From our standpoint, as far as advertising, it's been good."

Tampa Bay is loaded with open and competitive races, from congressional races to succeed Katherine Harris and Mike Bilirakis, to the statewide races for chief financial officer and attorney general, and a host of open legislative seats.

The contest between Democrat Christine Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan to succeed Harris in her Sarasota area district by some estimates could wind up the most expensive congressional race in America - nearly $13-million to date, including nearly than $5.7-million spent personally by Buchanan.

Buchanan is the only other Floridian to make the top-five list of political advertisers. He ranked fourth in all congressional races.

"We've gone from being one of the biggest national test markets in the country to being the biggest political swing market in the country," Republican media consultant Adam Goodman said Thursday, in the midst of producing a last round of ads for assorted candidates. "I think you're going to see more of this, not less of it, as we move into the '08 presidential cycle."

But if you've maxed out on political commercials, just relax. The airwaves should be clear Wednesday.

The top 5 political ad markets

1. Tampa-St. Petersburg

2. Los Angeles

3. San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose

4. Boston

5. Providence-New Bedford