The Wisconsin Advertising Project, a group tracking political advertising, has found that already in this election cycle, much can be gathered from presidential campaign strategies, including where the different candidates air commercials.
Since 1998, the University of Wisconsin-based project has analyzed political advertising and compiled their information into a mostly digital resource.
Political television advertising remains a specialized topic that is at the pinnacle of every campaign’s strategy. In order for politicians and scholars to understand how to use this valuable resource better, the Wisconsin Advertising Project is compiling comprehensive data for scholarly and informational use.
Through this, politicians may be able to decipher which types of advertisements they want representing them, and what commercials are the most effective.
During this election, the project has played a major role in monitoring advertising activity in the major markets. It can help the public know what places the two campaigns are focusing on as well as which issues are being played out.
For instance, the project found the lack of advertising by the Bush campaign in Virginia and North Carolina, despite a small number of airings by the Democratic National Committee, indicates the Bush campaign is confident it will retain these states. On the other hand, both campaigns have focused heavily on Colorado, Arizona and Nevada, all Bush states in 2000, meaning the states are considered swing states by the Bush campaign.
Nielson Monitor Plus, a data gathering device, and the Advertising Project have found Kerry and his allies hold an advantage in nine out of the 10 most desirable television markets. Kerry also has 64 of the 93 targeted markets. Since the Democratic National Convention in July, the study found the markets in Ohio, Nevada, Florida and Wisconsin are among the most sought. This type of information was hard to come by before the founding of the project.
Political science professor Ken Goldstein, director of the project, talked about the uniqueness of the endeavor.
“It’s a long-term process and the only [advertising research program] with countrywide research,” Goldstein said.
The three main goals of the project, Goldstein said, are to provide the press with information about the political ads, to provide data for surveys and public opinion polls, and to provide an archive for scholarly use in books and dissertations. Along with program deputy director Joel Rivlin, Goldstein has used the accumulated data to write the book “Political Advertising in the 2002 Election”.
The accumulated data has had a major impact on how campaigns use television advertising, as well as aiding Supreme Court decisions. Furthermore, Goldstein added the project has made breakthroughs in realizing how TV advertising “teaches, engages, mobilizes and stimulates the elector.”
“Through the data we are able to see how often [a candidate] airs a negative ad,” said Nathan Arnold, a worker for the Ad Project. “We are [also] able to see if a candidate is focused on one issue over another.”
Through the data collected, however, the project workers are able to discern some effects advertising has on the average voter, even though candidates often chastise the use of so-called attack ads.
“Negative advertising may actually motivate people to vote,” Arnold said.