What’s Our Bigger Threat? Soviet Subs or Negative Ads?

Jonathan Karl, Richard Coolidge & Sherisse Pham
Power PlayersMarch 6, 2012

Spinners and Winners

In Ohio, voters are being bombarded with political ads on television, more than 80% of which have been negative, plain and simple attack ads
going after fellow Republican candidates. How do we know that? Spinners and Winners spoke with Ken Goldstein of Kantar Media CMAG, an organization that keeps tabs on each and every political ad aired on television.

"Super Tuesday, I would sort of rename Super Ohio," said Goldstein, "Romney, when all is said and aired, is going to have a big advantage in advertising in in Ohio."

In fact, Romney and a pro-Romney super pac are dominating the Ohio airwaves, outspending the pro-Santorum and pro-Gingrich super PACs each by nine to one.

There has never been a primary campaign so awash in negative ads. Four years ago, during the Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton battle,  there was one "sort of" negative ad, Goldstein said. Clinton's so-called "3 a.m." ad does not even identify Barack Obama by name.

"I think that would sorta look quaint now," said Goldstein.

On the Republican side, six percent of all ads aired in 2008 were negative, today, that figure tops 50 percent.

Goldstein's group tracks the campaign ads using technology that was developed by the U.S. Navy to track Soviet submarines. That's right, technology that is meant to track threats to the United States, is now being deployed to track negative campaign ads. Like the propellers on a Soviet sub, each ad has a unique sound pattern, as well as unique video patterns.

"We have servers in all 210 media markets in the country," said Goldstein. "Every time they see a unique 30-second audio or video pattern, they download it to us." There are also flags to identify which ads are negative, and which are positive.

The big player across the country is the pro-Romney group 'Restore Our Future.' It has spent more money than any other group or candidate in the race. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum get boosts from their respective super PACs, too.

If it weren't for these groups, said Goldstein, there is a question of whether Gingrich or Santorum would even still be in the race.