Executives at local and national Spanish-language television companies estimate that spending on Spanish-language television ads this year surpassed $20 million. While difficult to confirm, this information is not difficult to believe. A growing number of campaigns across the nation have begun to air Spanish-language ads on local cable in an effort to avoid costly statewide ad rates and better target Hispanic communities in certain regions.
In addition, spending was high in some key competitive congressional races in areas outside of the top 100 media markets. Also, some large Hispanic television markets fall outside of the top 100 media markets, but inside some of the states with large Hispanic populations discussed in this report. Finally, cost estimates are conservative. Rising viewership is helping increase ad rates and ad sales revenues at the largest Spanish-language television networks and stations. No national ads were placed on any of the national Spanish-language broadcast or cable television networks in 2002.
ADS ALMOST ENTIRELY POSITIVE
More than 88 percent (roughly 14,000 spots) of Spanish-language television ads aired in 2002 were positive. Only two percent (about 400 spots) of Spanish-language television ads aired nationally were negative ads and less than ten percent (more than 1,500 spots) were ads that contrasted candidates’ records. By comparison, the Wisconsin Advertising Project found that only about 40% of all ads aired this year by House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates were positive.
There are many factors that account for the unusually positive nature of ads geared toward Hispanic voters. First, a large portion of Hispanic voters are first-time voters. Candidates and the parties continue to seek a positive long-term relationship with Hispanic voters and therefore continue to introduce themselves in positive ways.
Second, negative ads do not test well. While the Democratic National Committee and Sierra Club effectively used negative Spanish-language television ads in 2000, strategists interviewed for this report said that recent polling and focus groups have both concluded that Hispanic voters respond poorly to existing styles of negative ads.
Despite the mostly positive nature of ads nationally, a handful of competitive races featured negative Spanish-language ads. Democratic challenger Henry Cuellar ran negative ads against Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla in their Texas U.S. House race. In addition, two Democratic U.S. House candidates in New Mexico, State Senators Richard M. Romero and John Arthur Smith, ran negative ads against their Republican opponents on Spanish-language broadcast television.
Local races saw negative ads as well. In California’s 80th Assembly District, two Hispanic candidates, Republican Bonnie Garcia and Democrat Joey Acuña, launched attacks using Spanish-language television ads. However, negative English ads were the choice of campaigns in states with large Hispanic populations across the nation. For example, Texas Governor Rick Perry ran an ad attacking his Democratic opponent Tony Sanchez in English, but made a calculated decision not to air the same ad in Spanish.
ORIGINAL ADS VERSUS ADS FROM ENGLISH
More ads aired in 2002, than ever before, were specifically created by candidates and parties to reach Hispanic voters. Dozens of ads were created with messages and images intended to resonate with Hispanics. Many candidates hired media consultants to create unique ads that would only be aired on Spanish-language television stations. The Spanish-language television programs that Spanish-speaking Americans watch are markedly different from national television broadcasting for the non-Hispanic audience. Dominant cultural differences are evident when comparing broadcasts. The 2002 election data show us that more candidates now understand what many corporations have understood for more than a decade: the importance of advertisements specifically created for Hispanic viewers.
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