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In the Busiest Month for Political TV Ads, Cleveland Rocks
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In the Busiest Month for Political TV Ads, Cleveland Rocks

Even in a midterm election cycle, American TV viewers were inundated with more TV ads than perhaps ever before.

Last month, American TV viewers were exposed to almost 1.48 million political ads, up from the 1.41 million political ads aired in October 2008 (the last major presidential election year), according to data released today by Nielsen. It was the largest political ad output on record in what is traditionally known as the busiest month of the year for political messaging. Nielsen data over the last five calendar years suggest that TV distributors air twice as many political and issue ads in October than any other month, on average.

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For some media markets, political ads are especially dominant in the local TV landscape, and nowhere is this more evident than Ohio.  In an analysis of local broadcast TV outlets in the top 128 U.S. markets in October, Cleveland stations aired the highest proportion of political and issue advertising.  Nielsen found that about one out of every four paid TV ads aired on local Cleveland stations was placed by a political candidate or outside political group. Ohio’s capital city Columbus placed a very close second in the ranking with an estimated 23.37% of paid ads bought by political entities. Portland, OR, Sacramento, CA, and Seattle, WA round out the top 5.

HIGHEST SATURATION OF POLITICAL ADVERTISING, BY MARKET

10/1 to 10/31/10

RANK MARKET # OF POLITICAL ADS* TOTAL # OF ADS** POLITICAL AD %
1 Cleveland, OH 29,689 126,656 23.44%
2 Columbus, OH 24,693 105,651 23.37%
3 Portland, OR 25,527 117,208 21.78%
4 Sacramento, CA 26,965 127,318 21.18%
5 Seattle, WA 26,071 133,874 19.47%
6 Champaign-Springfield, IL 14,662 77,264 18.98%
7 Reno, NV 18,364 98,414 18.66%
8 Denver, CO 24,302 130,255 18.66%
9 Orlando, FL 22,517 122,417 18.39%
10 West Palm Beach, FL 18,546 101,126 18.34%
Source: The Nielsen Company

* – Includes all TV ads placed on local broadcast TV outlets within the given market by groups characterized as political and professional organizations

** – Includes all national and local paid ads aired on TV stations monitored by Nielsen in the given market; excludes promos and PSAs

Note: results may be impacted by the number of broadcast viewing sources captured by Nielsen in each local market.

Ohio’s status as a political TV battleground is nothing new.  In 2008, six Ohio DMAs placed among the top 20 markets with the highest rate of political ads in October, and in the last midterm election in 2006, five markets from the Buckeye State placed in the top 20.

Of course, not all U.S. TV markets were as politically saturated. Ohioans seeking a respite from this year’s political noise may have wanted to lay low in Jackson, MS, where only one percent of paid TV ads airing on local stations were classified as political or issue ads. The Richmond, VA market had the second lowest rate of political saturation among the 128 markets analyzed in October at just 2.45%.  Richmond’s ranking comes in stark contrast to the same time last year, when it ranked fourth nationally in political TV saturation, thanks to a high-profile governor’s race in an otherwise off year for political campaigns.

Interestingly, Texas offered four of the ten least saturated markets last month.

LOWEST SATURATION OF POLITICAL ADVERTISING, BY MARKET

10/1 to 10/31/10

RANK MARKET # OF POLITICAL ADS* TOTAL # OF ADS** POLITICAL AD %
1 Jackson, MS 827 81,218 1.02%
2 Richmond-Petersburg, VA 2,466 100,774 2.45%
3 Lincoln-Hastings-Kearney, NE 2,036 72,851 2.79%
4 Salt Lake City, UT 3,321 112,984 2.94%
5 Tyler-Longview, TX 1,876 52,141 3.60%
6 Chattanooga, TN 3,370 91,703 3.67%
7 Knoxville, TN 3,916 100,463 3.90%
8 Harlingen-Brownsville, TX 4,407 109,719 4.02%
9 Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX 7,596 188,308 4.03%
10 Houston, TX 6,602 159,868 4.13%
Source: The Nielsen Company

* – Includes all TV ads placed on local broadcast TV outlets within the given market by groups characterized as political and professional organizations

** – Includes all national and local paid ads aired on TV stations monitored by Nielsen in the given market; excludes promos and PSAs

Note: results may be impacted by the number of broadcast viewing sources captured by Nielsen in each local market.

Download the full rankings of all 128 markets contained in Nielsen’s October political advertising analysis.