By Nick Corasaniti in The New York Times: In a presidential election year, no glowing rectangle in Iowa or New Hampshire is safe from an endless deluge of political ads.
Campaign ads are inescapable on the nightly news, “Wheel of Fortune” and YouTube. Even the high-dollar, high-visibility ad blocks of professional and college football games have become increasingly saturated.
It’s a deeply entrenched multimillion-dollar industry, and one of the largest expenses of every presidential campaign. But a confluence of political forces and changing media behavior may be testing the efficacy of political advertising in the Trump era.
Nikki Haley and her allied super PAC spent roughly $28 million on broadcast ads in Iowa, according to AdImpact, an ad-tracking firm. Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies spent $25 million. Trump and his super PAC spent only $15 million — and won by more than 30 points.
As my colleagues Michael Bender and Katie Glueck reported, that result showed a new depth to the Republican Party’s devotion to Trump. But it also suggests that a smaller universe of persuadable voters and a wholesale shift in viewing habits may have significantly undercut the impact of political advertising.
According to Cross Screen Media, an ad analytics firm, only 63 percent of Iowa Republicans are reachable with traditional or “linear” TV ads, as viewers switch to streaming and social media. In 2016, that percentage was still in the 90s. At most, Republican campaigns this year reached 42 percent of likely caucus voters.
“I don’t think that people have caught up with where the media consumption is,” said Michael Beach, chief executive of Cross Screen Media.
The pivot to streaming is potentially deadly for political ad buyers. Beach estimates that almost 40 percent of the time viewers spend on television is on streaming, but streaming offers far fewer opportunities to show ads to viewers than traditional programming.
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New Hampshire’s presidential race is much closer than Iowa’s was, with polls showing Haley trailing Trump by single digits. And Trump faces a similar advertising deficit, with Haley and her allies spending more than twice as much as Trump’s campaign and its allied super PAC.
But the tone of advertising in New Hampshire has taken a sharply negative turn on the former president. Ten times as many negative ads attacking Trump have run in New Hampshire over the past 30 days as ran in Iowa, according to data from AdImpact. The biggest such spender is the SFA Fund, the super PAC supporting Haley, which is portraying Trump as a liar prone to temper tantrums.
Trump and his allies have responded, spending $1.4 million on a single ad attacking Haley over immigration, and $2.7 million on one targeting her support for raising the gas tax when she was governor of South Carolina in 2015 (she also called for a corresponding income tax cut).
(DeSantis, who is far behind Trump and Haley in New Hampshire, had not broadcast any ads in the state in over a month when DeSantis and his super PAC announced Wednesday that they would be leaving the state to focus on South Carolina.)
But there maybe slightly more of an opportunity for Haley to close the gap. According to Cross Screen Media, 80 percent of New Hampshire Republican voters are reachable by traditional television advertising.