As protests across the nation continue, some political advertisers have turned the focus away from topics of taxation and healthcare to focus on more prevalent issues like police brutality, riots, and even in some cases ANTIFA. A few Democratic candidates have come out with ads supporting protests, and Republicans have been quick and heavy handed in their denouncement of any violent actions taken.
During the competitive Kentucky Democratic primary between Charles Booker and Amy McGrath, Booker released an ad targeting McGrath’s lack of participation in local peaceful protests contrasted by video footage of himself marching. This ad, with $281K behind it, accounted for 49% of Booker’s broadcast spend.
McGrath responded that very day with an ad speaking on George Floyd’s death and subsequent military involvement in protests. Due to McGrath’s overwhelming spending, this ad only accounted for 0.6% of her broadcast spend from the past year. On the other side of the race McConnell began airing a new creative criticizing the removal of statues, and lack of action taken by nationwide governors and mayors, which after only two days already has $103K behind it.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, an LAPD union, began airing a creative speaking about the consequences of defunding police departments. Notably the ad touts the department’s growth in diversity and increased training programs, contrasted with the risk of longer 911 response times. Similarly, the State Government Leadership Foundation has a digital creative running that shows a home break in gone wrong as an automated 911 response is unable to send law enforcement to help.
When extrapolated to large contests, the gauntlet of which is the race to the White House, advertisers are focusing on the unrest of the public. Trump began airing “Standing For Our Flag” on June 21st, in which ANTIFA is labeled as the cause for riots and protests which are “…destroying our communities.” The ad is backed by $117K and focused in key markets in states Trump has been targeting heavily, ie North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona. In contrast, Biden’s first broadcast ad since his hiatus, calls for general unity and togetherness in the face of many crises, with a massive $1.8M backing.
Other notable advertisements addressing this topic include Casey Askar’s defense of Trump, and Kathleen Wall’s promise to restore law and order. This conversation could continue to play out well in to November, and we’re likely to see more ads about police as the argument over defunding escalates.