NH Crush: The Ad Campaigns in New Hampshire
Copyright © 2004  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.  Special thanks to Professor Dante J. Scala and the Department of Politics at St. Anselm College, Manchester, NH, Dan Amundson and the Center for Media and Public Affairs in Washington, DC, Jim Margolis at GMMB (interview) and Joe Slade White (interview).

In the months and weeks before the New Hampshire primary, Granite State television viewers see a barrage of ads from the campaigns as well as a sprinkling of interest group ads.  This survey examines political ads run in New Hampshire on WMUR-TV's "News 9 at Noon," "News 9 at 5," "News 9 at 6" and "News 9 Tonight" weekday broadcasts in the closing seven weeks of the campaign.  Based on this sample,  the Kerry campaign ran the most intensive ad campaign in New Hampshire, in terms of the number of different ads and the total number of ads.  The Lieberman campaign also ran an intensive ad campaign, and the Clark, Dean and Edwards campaigns ran substantial ad campaigns.

WMUR-TV ABC9, a Hearst-Argyle station in Manchester, is New Hampshire's largest commercial television station and provides a cost effective way for the campaigns to reach New Hampshire TV viewers.  Other ways to reach the market are WNDS TV 50 in Derry, the Boston stations, WNNE TV 31 in White River Junction, Vermont, radio, and newspapers.  WMUR-TV General Manager Jeff Bartlett explained the advantages his station offers:

People (including politicians) advertise on WMUR because we are the best and most efficient way to reach a majority of New Hampshire viewers.  The Boston stations, for example, are way too expensive since you are paying for a lot of people who can not vote in the NH primary.  NH is 17% of the Boston market, so when you buy a Boston station 83% of the viewers don't live here so 83% of the buy is wasted.  WNDS has far fewer newscasts, much lower ratings and a significant part of their audience lives in northern Massachusetts.  Buying WNNE in White River Junction will get you a small number of people in two NH counties (as well as many viewers in Vermont who can't vote in NH.)  The Union Leader, while delivered statewide, still has most of its readers in the Manchester/central part of the state and reaches far fewer people than WMUR newscasts.  And simply from a marketing point of view, political agencies far prefer the power of visuals and the ability to make multiple impressions on voters every single day which only WMUR can provide.
Bartlett notes that, "The newscasts are the main area of interest for political advertisers...  The politicians will buy other programming, but will go for Good Morning America, 20/20 and other news related programming first and then move out to other programs and day parts."

The sample consists of four weekday newscasts on WMUR-TV--"News 9 at Noon," "News 9 at 5," "News 9 at 6" and News 9 Tonight" (11 p.m.)--from December 5, 2003 to January 26, 2004, a period of 53 days.  Taken together this comprises two and a half hours of coverage each day (the noon, six p.m. and late broadcasts are each a half-hour long and the 5 p.m. broadcast is an hour).  WMUR-TV also has a morning newscast, which was not viewed.  Weekends were not examined, reducing the total to 37 days. 

The sample includes all ads run during each of the four newscasts plus those in the ad breaks at the ends of the four broadcasts.  A half-hour newcast has three ad breaks and the hour-long 5 p.m. newscast has six ad breaks.  Each ad break typically has five 30-second spots, and there are also, not infrequently, promos for network and station programming; these are typically shorter.  The sample thus encompasses 19 ad breaks each day (noon - three ad breaks plus the one at the end; 5  p.m. - six ad breaks plus one at the end, 6 p.m. - three ad breaks plus the one at the end; and 11 p.m - six ad breaks plus the one at the end).

A few newscasts were missed, and sports and special programming usurped others.  All of December 18 was missed as were three of the December 17 newscasts.  A parade and football on eliminated all the regular newscasts on January 1; football likewise eliminated two of the newscasts on January 2; basketball on December 25 cost two newscasts; and Monday Night Football preempted the 11 p.m. newscasts on December 8, 15 and 22.  All four newscasts were viewed on 24 days and at least one newscast was viewed on 35 days.

Any ads that ran during the course of the rest of the day are not represented in this survey.  If a campaign had an intensive "Oprah" strategy or "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" strategy this survey would miss it entirely.

Seven Weeks Out >
Dec. 5 
6 political ads: Clark, Edwards, Kerry, Lieberman (2), Club for Growth.

8 political ads: Clark (2), Edwards (2), Kerry (2), Lieberman (2).

6 political ads: Clark, Edwards, Kerry  (2), Lieberman (2)

4 political ads: Clark, Edwards, Kerry, Lieberman.

24 political ads: Clark (5), Edwards (5), Kerry (6), Lieberman (7), Club for Growth (1).

For the four newscasts during these seven-plus weeks, excluding the missed broadcasts, eight candidates ran 49 different spots a total of 1,018 times and five groups ran seven spots a total of 49 times.  The Kerry and Lieberman campaigns ran significantly more ads than the Clark, Dean and Edwards campaigns on the four WMUR-TV newscasts.  In the sample period, 279 Kerry spots aired to 256 for Lieberman, 147 for Clark, 139 for Dean, and 118 for Edwards.  The Kucinch campaign entered the New Hampshire market relatively late; the first Kucinich spot was seen on January 6.  After its initial ads, the Gephardt campaign only did a week of advertising in New Hampshire starting on January 13 and continuing through January 20.  Of the groups seeking to influence the primary, Nuclear Threat Initiative put the most into advertising during the WMUR newscasts.

Kerry was consistent in his large ad presence, at least on these newscasts; on 22 of the 35 days in the sample, the Kerry campaign ran the most ads and and it tied with the Lieberman campaign on six days.  By contrast, the Dean campaign's ad presence during the newscasts was quite a bit lighter and sporadic.  Dean did finish with a strong presence at the end; on January 26, Dean ran 21 of the 89 30-second ad equivalents.

Political Ads by Candidate and Group on 
Four WMUR TV Newscasts
Dec. 5, 2003-Jan. 26, 20041
Different Spots Total Spots2
Clark 8
Dean 8
Edwards 6
Gephardt 1
Kerry 12
Kucinich 4
Lieberman 8
LaRouche 2
Americans for Jobs, Health... 1
Club for Growth 1
Nuclear Threat Initiative 3
Republican National Committee 1
Notes:  1. Some broadcasts missing or usurped by other programming as detailed above and in the tables on the following pages.  2. The totals above and in the following pages are 30 second ad equivalents; one minute ads [Dean (Biographical) and Lieberman ("I Love America")] were each tallied as two ads and 15 second ads (Kucinich) were each tallied as half an ad. 

The "volume" of ads increased markedly as primary day approached, although Christmas and New Year's holidays caused a dip in the number of ads run.   In the first two weeks of January a higher number of ads ran than had run earlier in December.  The Lieberman campaign racheted up the volume markedly little more than one week out.  On Friday, January 16 it ran eight ads during the four broadcasts; on Monday, January 19, with the addition of its one minute "I Love America" spot, the campaign ran the equivalent of 19 30-second spots.  The Kerry campaign and then the Dean campaign followed several days later, but the Clark and Edwards only increased their buys marginally based on this sample.  In the week before the primary, the number of ads in the sample increased each day of the week, going from 46 on Monday, January 19 to 60 on Friday, January 23.  On Monday, January 26, the day befor the primary, the 89 of 90 ads viewed were political ads; one ad for Grappone Honda somehow slipped in the noon newscast.

Average Number of 30-Second Political Ads on Four WMUR Newscasts
12/5 12/8-12 12/15-19 12/22-26 12/29-1/2 1/5-9 1/12-16 1/19-23 1/26
24 27 25 18 21.5 36.6 35.6 53.2 89
12/5 and 1/26 based on the one date.  Other weeks are averages of days for which all four newscasts were viewed (Dec. 8-12 based on one day, Dec. 15-19 two days, Dec. 22-26 two days, Dec. 29-Jan. 2 two days; Jan. 1-5, 12-16 and 19-23 five days).

General Discussion
The sample period does not take into account the early campaign ads that ran in New Hampshire.  Dean and Edwards went up with their first TV ads in New Hampshire around August 6, Gephardt on September 2, Kerry on September 4, Lieberman on October 28, and Kucinich, as seen, in January.  However, the Gephardt campaign did not do any advertising in New Hampshire between its initial ads and the ad it ran in January.  The Wisconsin Advertising Project reported that through November 30, 2003 campaigns had spent $1.8 million to run 3,500 total ads in New Hampshire.

Although the Wisconsin Advertising Project does useful studies on campaign advertising, it typically releases its reports at odd intervals that unfortunately do not cover the full primary campaign.  As of January 9, 2004 it reported that eight candidates and one affiliated group had spent $6,466,000 to run 7,519 ads in New Hampshire, including Boston.  Kerry had spent $2.0 million, Lieberman $1.3 million, Edwards $1.1 million, Dean close to $1 million, and Clark over $900,000.  The figures do not cover the final two-plus weeks when the advertising campaigns were most intense.

In addition to New Hampshire television, the campaigns were also putting resources into advertising for the January 19 Iowa caucuses and for some of the February 3 contests.  Iowa viewers saw some of the same ads as viewers in New Hampshire, but the overall ad mix there was markedly different, with Lieberman and Clark not competing in the state and the Gephardt campaign doing significant advertising in a must-win state for him.  The Wisconsin Advertising Project reported that through January 9, five campaigns and two affiliated groups had spent $8,733,000 to run 23,039 ads in Iowa.  Iowa has more media markets so the much greater number of spots than in New Hampshire is not unexpected.

The first day of the sample, December 5, 2003, coincided fairly closely with the nadir of Kerry's campaign.  The day's "News Nine at 5" reported on an ARG poll showing Dean 45%, Kerry 13% and Clark 11%.   "A major endorsement for John Kerry is soured by a new poll.  How he reacted to our questions about the state of his campaign," ran the headline.  The story showed Kerry, getting into his car, saying "I'm not commenting on polls."   Many factors contributed to Dean's slide over the next month and a half, but the contrast between the consistent, large buys by the Kerry campaign and the lighter, more sporadic buys by the Dean campaign at least on these newscasts is worthy of note.  At the same time, the Lieberman campaign had a consistent, strong ad presence and it did not appear to help much.

The near saturation of political ads viewed on January 26 raises the question of whether there is there a limit or point where the station will not or cannot run any more of these ads.  Jeff Bartlett provided this observation:

There were a few times we had to impose limits on how many spots a campaign could buy in a certain time period in order to give everyone equal access. We rarely expand breaks and do so only minimally.  The programming breaks in network shows are in stone from ABC and we don't want to drive away viewers of our local news by expanding breaks to absurd levels.  There are only so many political spots a viewer can watch without turning the dial.

Impressions of the New Hampshire Ad Campaigns
Clark In general Clark's ads highlight his leadership; in "What If" he is described as "a new American leader," while in "Independence" and "Hopes" he possesses "a quiet, real American courage."  "Major" offers a testimonial from Army Major Patricia Williams (ret.) who describes Clark as "a great man.  A man who makes no apologies for doing the right thing for the right reasons."  Policy issues addressed include Iraq ("Leader"), the economy ("Secretary"), and education ("Respect").

Stylistically, the use of black and white stills in ads such as "Independence" and "Renewal" provided a degree of elegance and differentiated Clark's ads from those of other campaigns.  A number of ads featured Clark talking to the camera with a simple drape backdrop in background ("Imagine" and "Leader"); again these had a different look than other campaign ads, although contentwise the messages could have been sharpened.  "What If" drew attention because it was the first ad to feature a clip of Clinton; it was also noteworthy in that the campaign gave it a second run for a few days in the week before the primary.  "Major" was a solid testimonial ad.  "Secretary" effectively linked Clark's background and his proposals.  "Renewal" was interesting in that it had no narration.  (The Edwards campaign did this earlier with "Now" in Iowa.)  The closer, "Hopes," featured a clip of Clark working a line that was reminiscent of a President entering the House of Representatives to deliver a State of the Union address; overall the spot was solid but unremarkable.

One of the images seen in a number of Clark's ads, including the closer, is a scene of the candidate interacting with kids who are playing with small colorful blocks which they have stacked into long wavering columns. It's a nice image, somewhat amusing, but symbolically the campaign might better have have found something that conveyed solidity.  Not seen in the Clark ads were any obvious New Hampshire imagery or testimonials.

Dean.  The somewhat light and sporadic ad presence described above is puzzling.  It may be that the campaign did not feel the need to have a heavy ad presence because of its lead in the polls, that it placed more emphasis on the ground game, that it was running a lot of ads in other day parts, or that it ran more of its ads earlier in the campaign, before this sample.

In many of his ads Dean invokes the "you have the power" and "it's time to take our country back" messages of his campaign.  The ads had a fair dose of rhetoric against the special interests; in "Prescription Drugs-NH" Dean called on viewers to "stand up to the special interests,"  in Biographical he proclaimed, "We can stop the special interests..." and in "One Candidate" he issued a call to "stand up to the lobbyists and the special interests."

Major issues addressed in Dean' ads include health care and the economy.   In "Prescription Drugs-NH" the announcer declared that, "Howard Dean will repeal the Bush tax cuts to provide health insurance for every American."  "Enron Econ" addresses the economy; the announcer states that Dean offers "an economic plan that creates two million new jobs, invests in small business to protect small towns and rural communities, and stops tax giveaways to corporations that move our jobs overseas."  In the second part of the ad Dean delivers a "red meat" attack, stating that "George Bush is doing to our economy what Enron's executives did to their company.  The president's friends get all the benefits and we pay all the bills."  A couple of the ads highlighted Dean's opposition to the war, most notably "One Candidate" but also the closer "Leader."  Unlike in Iowa, where Dean ran an ad ("War") that mentioned his Democratic challengers by name, these ads generalized ("When some Democrats were supporting the war...," "other Democrats were silent").  "Board Room," in which Dean focused on corporate accountability, was a curiously anomalous ad, well crafted but very different in style from other Dean ads.

As the frontrunner, Dean faced attacks from other candidates (Lieberman's "Better Than That") and several groups (Club for Growth's "Tax Redux" and Americans for Jobs, Health Care & Progressive Values' bin Laden ad).  The first Dean ads seen on the newscasts in this period ("My Opponents" and "Club for Truth") were responses to attacks.   The one-minute Biographical ad, which appeared relatively late, at least in this viewing sample, humanized Dean, showing a photo of him with his wife and during his days as a doctor, as well as providing highights of Dean's record as governor.  The Dean campaign's closing ad "Leader" may be one of its better ads; the short clip of Dean with Carter gives the ad a degree of gravitas.  The ad could have used a better closing image, however, as Dean appears quite red-faced in the one used.  Also at the close, the Dean campaign made much of the interview Dean and his wife, Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean, did with ABC News' Diane Sawyer on January 22.  Although it didn't do any ads on this, it did distribute tens of thousands of videotapes of the interview to New Hampshire voters.

Overall Dean's ads were quite conventional--a montage of clips of Dean interacting with people, major points in text at the bottom of the screen, and a bit of Dean talking to the camera.  Here the campaign may have missed a significant opportunity.  Dean had inspired a tremendous grassroots support and the campaign could perhaps have highlighted that by running some testimonial type ads of New Hampshire supporters or volunteers talking about why they favored Dean, or by attempting something more edgy.   The campaign might possibly have used a bit more biography in other ads to humanize Dean, or, if Dean had been willing, it might have done some ads connecting some of his experiences as a doctor to his policy views.

Edwards.  The Edwards campaign started advertising in New Hampshire in early August, so this sample misses a fair number of his ads.  The  spots that appeared during this survey's time frame were very well crafted.  The ads do not offer much in the way of specific policy prescriptions; instead viewers are referred to a phone number or his website to obtain a copy of his plan ("Answer").  What the ads do, and do well, is highlight Edwards' broad themes such as his "two Americas" ("Two Americas") and his "positive vision of hope and new ideas" ("Believe" and "Now").

Although many of Edwards' earlier ads featured him talking directly to the camera, the ads in these closing weeks used clips of him speaking on the stump.  "Answer" showed him speaking in Nashua, NH on October 19, 2003.  "Right" showed footage of the candidate running; Edwards, doing voiceover, stated his "belief that in America anything is possible."

"Now," an ad without narration, is poetic and effective closing ad, really a thank you to people who have helped on the campaign and attended Edwards' events.   This gem of an ad consists of a rapid sequence of shots of faces and hands and some images of Edwards mixed in, but not too many; all told there are about thirty different images.  The hopeful message recalls one of the Clinton/Gore '92 ads.

Gephardt.  The one ad the Gephardt campaign ran during this period, "Led," focused on trade.  Gephardt cited his opposition to NAFTA and the China trade deal and vowed to "change America's trade policies."  The ad specifically mentioned four of Gephardt's opponents.

Kerry.  Ryan Lizza noted in The New Republic's online "Campaign Journal" (April 2, 2004) that, "During the primaries and caucuses, many pundits and consultants considered Kerry's ads to be the best on TV."   "100 Days," for example, is a crisp, fast-paced ad which lays out specific policy differences with Bush.  Another very effective spot run later features a testimonial from the campaign's national chair, former New Hamsphire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

At the same time as it was running "100 Days," the campaign was also airing a more personal and reflective ad, "Cured," in which Kerry talked about his fight with prostate cancer and related that to his plan to give "every American access to the same health care that Congress gives itself."   The Kerry campaign ran a second ad on health care featuring MaryAnn Knowles, a woman from Hudson, NH battling breast cancer.  Kerry vowed that in his "first hundred days as president I'll introduce legislation that makes your health insurance more important than the drug companies' profits."  In "Energy Independence"  Kerry talked about the need to reduce dependence on Mideast oil while images of kids playing in the snow ran on the screen.   "No child growing up in America today should ever have to go to war for oil," Kerry stated.

Bush was a target in quite a few of Kerry's ads.  In "Every Day" he vowed to "defeat George Bush and the powerful special interests" and in an ad that ran in the closing week he pledged "to take the fight to George Bush every single day."  Bush-Cheney '04 reported on February 12, 2004 (encompasses some Iowa ads and ads run after New Hampshire) that "to date, John Kerry has aired 27 campaign ads. 56% (15) of those ads have directly attacked the President on a range of issues including healthcare, taxes, Medicare, special interests, pollution, and Iraq."

Kerry's Vietnam experience is an important part of his appeal. "A Good American" features a testimonial from swift boat crewmante Del Sandusky, who lauded Kerry's "unfailing instinct and unchallengable leadership."  Kerry stated that, "There's a sense after Vietnam that every other day is extra, that you have to do what's right and let the chips fall where they may."  More than any of the other campaigns, Kerry's ads appear to feature other people speaking or appearing on his behalf, including Shaheen, Sandusky and ordinary New Hampshirites such as the Knowles and the MacLellans ("Every Day").  This approach may be an effort to counter the knock on Kerry that he has trouble connecting with people.

Kucinich.  Kucinich's unrelenting criticism of the war in Iraq was central to his campaign and his ads clearly reflect that stance.  In "U.N. In!  U.S. Out!" he warned against "another Vietnam" and vowed "to take a new plan to the UN to bring in UN peacekeepers and bring our troops home."  The Kucinich campaign started with a pair of 15-second spots, "Privacy/Secrecy" and "Inspire the World;" typically one appeared at the beginning and one at the end of an ad break.  With the need to do the disclaimer, this format allowed only a slogan and one sentence of message content.  The ads are straightforward, unadorned, and uncluttered, aescetic almost.

Lieberman.  Lieberman was viewed by some Democrats as the Republican in the race, and he had difficulty gaining traction.  Seeking to husband resources, the campaign started running ads considerably later than the competition, but once it was up on the air the campaign maintained a strong presence.  The Lieberman ads in the sample emphasize his integrity and independence.  "Straight Talkers" features brief remarks on Lieberman's integrity and character from seven New Hampshirites who supported Sen. John McCain in the 2000 New Hampshire primary.  Lieberman's campaign ads also highlight his positions on issues such as the environment, paid family and medical leave, choice, discrimination, a strong stance against terrorism, and a cut in tax rates; for example, "Determined" and "Only One" encompass a number of such issues.  A later ad, "Bold," focuses on taxes, promising, "A sweeping income tax cut of up to 10%.  Up to $2800 per family."

Lieberman was one of the few candidates to go negative in his ads (Gephardt was the other), singling out Howard Dean by name in  "Better Than That."  Noting the Bush Administration's penchant for secrecy he asked, "So why did Howard Dean seal his records as governor and invoke executive privilege?"

The one-minute ad, "I Love America," which ran starting a week and a half before the primary, invoked a couple of iconic figures, John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., before proceeding to biography and positions.  Although former Vice President Gore had endorsed Dean, "I Love America" showed a brief clip of Gore and Lieberman at the 2000 Convention.  The ad also included a short clip of Lieberman with his mother Marcia.  The final New Hampshire ad, "More and More," sought to convey an impression of momentum or as Lieberman liked to say out on the stump "Joe-mentum."  New Hampshire voters quashed that notion.

All told in New Hampshire the Lieberman campaign ran eleven 30-second spots, one 60-second spot, and a half-hour televised town hall meeting that aired on WMUR-TV on December 13, 2003.  The campaign also aired two radio ads,  put up a pair of billboards in Manchester, and ran an ad in the Union Leader on primary day.

Groups.  Five groups ran ads during the newscasts.  While the Club for Growth ("Tax Redux") and Americans for Jobs, Health Care & Progressive Values (bin Laden ad) ads generated attention with attacks on Dean, based on this sample, Nuclear Threat Initiative ran the most sustained television campaign, putting its first ads up in September and continuing through to primary eve.  One of those ads opened with imagery of the crippled World Trade Center towers (>).

Formats.  Several campaigns used formats besides the standard 30-second spot.  The Lieberman ("I Love America"-from January 18) and Dean (Biographical-first seen during these newscasts on January 20) campaigns ran one-minute spots.  Interestingly these ads, which had significant biographical elements, appeared the week or so before the primary, not at the beginning of the ad campaign as one might have expected.  Several of the candidates did half-hour broadcasts; the Lieberman campaign promoted his December 13 town meeting with a 30-second spot ("Tune In"), and the LaRouche campaign promoted a January 10 and 11 broadcast with a couple of promos (1, 2).  The Clark campaign reported it ran the 15-minute movie "American Son" back to back on WNDS-TV on January 6, 13 and 20.  At the other extreme, were the Kucinich campaign's 15-second spots.

Every four years (2000) New Hampshire television viewers get a strong dose of campaign ads in the lead up to the first-in-the-nation primary.  Based on this sample of WMUR-TV's newscasts for the seven weeks leading up to the primary, the Kerry and Lieberman campaigns were the leading advertisers.  The Clark, Dean and Edwards campaigns also invested significant resources in advertising during these newscasts.  The Kucinich campaign started advertising relatively late and had a moderate presence, the Gephardt campaign made a token appearance, and a number of interest groups weighed in.  By the eve of the primary, political advertising approached saturation levels.