WASHINGTON (CNN) – Barack Obama plans to run a 30-minute television ad
simultaneously across almost all the broadcast and cable networks Wednesday
night - a "muscle flex" that has little precedent in modern politics, campaign
advertising expert Evan Tracey said.
"It's evidence, if you needed any, that the Obama campaign has more money
than there is ad time left to buy," said Tracey, director of the Campaign Media
Analysis Group (CMAG).
Tracey estimates that it will probably cost the campaign "in the $4-5
million range - at a minimum, $3.5 million."
But, he said, spending the money is a "no-brainer" for the Democratic presidential hopeful.
"The strategic brilliance of this for Obama is that he is going to
consume about 24 hours of the news cycle," Tracey said. "It boxes McCain in,
takes the oxygen out of the room."
There is so much buzz surrounding the infomercial - which was first
announced about two weeks ago - that Time magazine's Mark Halperin Tuesday put
the ad's two editors on his daily list of the "five most important people in
American politics not running for president."
Those editors, Erik Smith and Mark Putnam, were "still in an edit room
cutting" the 30-minute piece on Tuesday when the list was published, Halperin
The ad is slated to run at 8 p.m. ET on CBS, NBC, MSNBC, Fox, BET, TV One
and Univision, the Spanish-language network.
CNN declined to run the spot, and talks between ABC and the Obama campaign fell apart.
"We were approached by the Obama campaign and declined their request," said Sal Petruzzi, senior vice president for public relations of Turner Broadcasting, CNN's parent company. "We did not want to pre-empt our programming lineup with a 30-minute spot. We would rather use our air to continue to cover the campaign, candidates and issues like we always do from
all points of view with the best political team on television."
An ABC spokeswoman declined to comment about the network's talks with the
"As a matter of policy we don't comment about clients with whom we are
doing business," said Julie Hoover of ABC. The Obama campaign has bought advertising on ABC in the past, she said, "but they did not buy the half hour."
Obama is taping an interview Wednesday with ABC's Charles Gibson, which is due to run Thursday, his campaign said.
A source familiar with ABC policy suggested the network had offered the Obama campaign a different time slot.
"Hypothetically we would have offered them equivalent time," the source said. "We don't have to give them the exact slot they are asking for."
Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said ABC had ultimately offered Obama the slot he wanted, but the campaign turned it down.
"By the time they agreed we had already committed our resources," Burton said.
The Obama campaign reported last week that it had raised a record-shattering $150 million in the month of September.
Obama has outspent McCain by a huge margin, according to CNN's consultant on ad spending.
Between the time the two candidates clinched their party's nominations in the spring and October 25, Obama spent more than $205 million on TV ads. McCain spent more than $119 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group.
The McCain campaign launched an ad Wednesday attacking Obama for his
30-minute special, saying: "Behind the fancy speeches, grand promises and TV
special, lies the truth: With crises at home and abroad, Barack Obama lacks the
experience America needs."
And the Republican National Committee blasted the timing of the ad, which
pushed back the start of a World Series baseball game by 15 minutes.
"It's unfortunate that the World Series' first pitch is being delayed for
Obama's political pitch. Not only is Obama putting politics before principle,
he's putting it before our national pastime," RNC spokesman Alex Conant said.
"To accommodate a half-hour Obama time buy on Fox on October 29, Major
League Baseball... agreed to move the start time of Game 6 by about 15
minutes," a Fox spokesman said. Wednesday night's game is in fact Game 5, due
to a rain delay.
MLB's willingness to delay the fall classic for a political ad shows how
very unusual the Obama TV spot is.
"Ross Perot did it in 1992, but it wasn't this close to Election Day, and
now you have a very different media consumption environment. You didn't have
the cable then," CMAG's Tracey said. "There is no precedent for this sort of an
ad this late in the race."