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Wesleyan Media Project: 2012 Shatters Records for Presidential Ads

Over 900,000 Ads Aired in Presidential General Election Race; Over 210,000 Ads since October 1; President Continues to Hold Ad Advantage in Key Markets;

Over 915,000 presidential ads have been aired on broadcast and national cable television since June 1.  This is a 44.5 percent increase from the 637,000 ads aired through October 21 in 2008 and a 43.7 percent increase from the 634,000 ads aired through October 21 in 2004.  See Figure 1.

“When all is said and done, 2012 will go down as a record pulverizing year for political advertising,” said Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.  “We’ve already surpassed the total number of presidential ads aired during the entire 2008 campaign—and we still have two weeks to go before Election Day.  What is especially striking is that the ads are concentrated on fewer markets than 2008, meaning that a smaller number of Americans have witnessed the onslaught of messages in the race for the White House.”

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About This Report

Data reported here do not cover local cable buys, only broadcast television and national cable buys.  All cost estimates are precisely that: estimates. Content information is based on ongoing Wesleyan Media Project coding of Kantar Media/CMAG video, which is 100 percent complete for presidential ads between 10/1 and 10/21/12 and 96.8 percent complete for the general election period from 4/25 through 10/21/12. Intercoder reliability checks on coding found 96 percent agreement between independent assessments of tone for a Kappa score of 0.87.

The Wesleyan Media Project provides real-time tracking and analysis of all political television advertising in real-time. Housed in Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center – part of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life – the Wesleyan Media Project is the successor to the Wisconsin Advertising Project, which disbanded in 2009.  It is directed by Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University, Michael M. Franz, associate professor of government at Bowdoin College and Travis N. Ridout, associate professor of political science at Washington State University.  Laura Baum is the Project Manager.

The Wesleyan Media Project is supported by grants from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Wesleyan University.  Data provided by Kantar Media/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project using Academiclip, a web-based coding tool. Periodic releases of data will be posted on the project’s website and dispersed via Twitter @wesmediaproject.

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For more information contact:

Heather Tolley-Bauer at 860-685-2768, 860-918-1868 (cell) or htolleybauer at wesleyan.edu

Lauren Rubenstein at 860-685-3813, 203-644-7144 (cell) or lrubenstein at wesleyan.edu  

Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Conn., is known for the excellence of its academic and co-curricular programs. More than 2,700 undergraduates and over 200 graduate students from around the world pursue their classroom studies, research projects, and co-curricular interests in ways that are demanding and intensely rewarding. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund advances social change that contributes to a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world.  The Fund’s grantmaking is organized in three thematic programs that support work in the United States and at the global level: Democratic Practice, Sustainable Development, and Peacebuilding; and in three pivotal place programs that address these themes in specific contexts: New York City, Southern China, and the Western Balkans. For more, visit www.rbf.org.

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