Sen. Rob Portman’s re-election campaign has reserved $15 million worth of air time around the state and will go on the air beginning in June with highly targeted ads aimed at specific groups that it hopes to woo for November.
Portman, a Republican who is opposing former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in November, will place $14 million of that on statewide TV and $1 million on YouTube inventory, the campaign announced today. The ads come after months of research aimed at placing the ads on the best shows possible to grab voters and echoes a strategy successfully employed by President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2012. For example, for one demographic group — the campaign declined to say which one — HGTV’s “Property Brothers” is the best program in Cincinnati and Cleveland. But in Columbus and Toledo, that demographic is more likely to tune into “Love it or List It.”
Similarly, ads will also air according to geographic interest; for example, ads about coal will likely run in southeast Ohio, while ads about toxic algae will likely run closer to the Great Lakes.
“Our paid media campaign will detail what is at stake in the Ohio Senate race: Rob’s vision for a brighter future or a return to Ted Strickland’s Ohio when the state lost more than 350,000 jobs and ranked 48th in job creation,” Campaign Manager Corry Bliss said in a statement. “The days of Ted Strickland hiding from his awful record are over — every Ohio voter will soon learn why Ted is the worst Senate candidate in America.”
The ads will also aim to spread the word about Portman, who needs to raise his name identification to increase in the state before November. A Quinnipiac University Poll released Wednesday found 42 percent of Ohio voters did not know enough about Portman to support or oppose him. Strickland, meanwhile, was essentially unknown by 31 percent of voters.
But with $15 million worth of ads going up, voters may be seeing a lot more of his face very soon. That figure does not count ad buys from Fighting for Ohio, a super PAC that is currently airing two ads supporting Portman.
“Given the fact that 40 percent of voters can’t pick Senator Portman out of a lineup, it’ll cost him at least $15 million to fix his embarrassing lack of name identification,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for Strickland.
Portman’s current ad buy is more than five times what Strickland has in the bank. He had $2.7 million in the bank as of March 31; Portman had $13.5 million. A Portman campaign spokesman said the campaign is confident they will have enough to cover the costs of the advertising.
Not all is highly targeted; the campaign has bought two ads for each of the Ohio State University football games scheduled to run on prime time. One will run in the third quarter, the other in the fourth.
The campaign has already run an extensive online ad campaign, including locally targeted banner ads that pointed out jobs lost in specific geographic areas when Strickland was governor and an Instagram ad which microtargeted students at Ohio State University during OSU’s first home football game. The campaign has also sponsored other Instagram ads to other Ohio universities.
Volunteers, meanwhile, have made nearly 2 million voter contacts to date, and its offices have campaign literature targeted to issues in specific geographic regions of the state.
By reserving the ads now, the campaign hopes to get a better price than in the fall, when presidential ads and ads for congressional and local races begin to put airtime at a premium. The strategy is similar to one employed by a super PAC supporting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Priorities USA in late April announced that they were reserving roughly 20 million worth of airtime in Ohio, according to spokesman Justin Barasky.
But Bliss said the ads have to be the right ones to win eyeballs. He envisions voters who are watching TV while surfing around on their iPhones or iPads.
Now he said the campaign has to find the right ads to show those viewers.
“Having a great television ad that helps you win must be targeted to the right people,” he said.