VA Governor By the Ads: From Enron to MS-13


Virginia Governor Advertising Analysis

For years we relied on ad spending to tell us who has the advantage in campaigns, now we have a combination of 3 data points to take us deeper than top line ad spending: real-time ad occurrence data, FCC Public file rates and Nielsen GRPs, all calculated to give you a true picture of the political ad landscape. We call it AdMo. [AdImpact] took a quick glance at AdMo to review political advertising trends in the race between Republican Ed Gillespie’s and Democrat Ralph Northam’s.

Creative Strategy

When it came to placement strategy, Northam spent more money on fewer ads. One spot, titled Enron Ed grossed a total of 1,500 statewide GRPs and ran 4,000 times since it first aired on September 21st. This was the most aired ad during the election. Gillespie released a total of 23 creatives, causing his highest spot count to reach only 1,900 and achieving 900 statewide GRPs with the ad Gang Violence, since its launch on September 21st. Gillespie’s 23 ads were more targeted than we’ve seen in previous gubernatorial races. If Ed Gillespie becomes the 73rd Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, his specific messaging and market-focused strategy will certainly be a factor in his success. Roanoke’s voters were the only ones to ever see the job loss ad Ripped Off on their television screens while Washingtonians got served Work Ethic, a 30 second biographical spot. Gillespie’s closing ad We Can Make Life Better For All Virginians garnered more than 1,800 airings since November 1st and more than 600 points statewide with the highest in Norfolk at over 900 GRPs. Despite spending approximately $2 million more than Gillespie in total, Northam only walked away with about 3,000 more airings after a total of 23,500 ad occurrences.

Political advertising trends - spending

Advertising Tone

Over the last two months political advertising trends have shifted towards negative ads with a dramatic spending increase for both Democrats and Republicans. Republicans pulled ahead over the last week by putting over $700k into Gillespie’s ad Northam’s Policies are Risky. Since the beginning of the month, Northam has put just under $500k into his positive ad Good Healthcare When You Need It, which started back in late October. Issue groups, including top spenders Virginia Education Association and NRA Political Victory Fund, have placed all efforts into negative airtime for their competitors since they started spending back in early October. The Latino Victory Fund raised some eyebrows with their controversial ad American Nightmare, lumping Ed Gillespie, Donald Trump and the confederate flag into the same category. The ad only ran a total of 5 times. Northam for VA Governor also took shots at Trump, spending just over $1.7 million in DC, Richmond and Norfolk on his ad Refuses, which centers around Trump’s fiscal conservatism.

Positive vs. Negative political advertising

Market Breakdown

Both Gillespie and Northam unsurprisingly spent the most money in Washington, DC, but Gillespie aired the most ads in the Norfolk-Portsmouth market. Standout issues included crime, specifically Gillespie’s MS-13 ad Gang Violence and Northam’s Prison. Both ads aired the most spots in Norfolk-Portsmouth. Lobbying was the second most important issue for this election making up for 19 percent of all ads. The Washington, DC market only aired Enron Ed, which accounted for half off all spots related to lobbying. The rest of the state got served 3 other creatives, including Northam’s Highest Bidder and Gillespie’s Time to Reform.

Political advertising market report

If you’re interested in learning more about advertisements beyond who and how much, reach out to [AdImpact] for a demo of AdMo.

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