Campaign ads crowd out local businesses on airwaves

Barack Obama is reflected on a glass table as he appears on television screens at an electronics shop in Wheaton, Md. Small businesses are seeing higher TV ad rates, fewer time slots in key swing states.

Kai Ryssdal: There are, as we all know, only 24 hours in a day. And a corrollary to that, there's only so much television ad space available in primetime.

So the news today that an outside group supporting Republican candidates is launching a multi-million dollar television campaign in key swing states comes as bad news to local car dealers, small businesses and other wannabe advertisers in those states.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall-Genzer reports, local advertisers are getting squeezed out of primetime.


Nancy Marshall-Genzer: Has it been a while since you’ve heard something like this?

Commercial: Make your best offer sale.

Commercials like this one, for a Virginia tire store, may be missing from your airwaves if you live in one of the swing states on the frontline of the campaign ad wars. One reason? With all the competition for prime time TV ad slots, prices go up.

Way up, says Matt Lauer of the ad agency Qorvis Communications.

Matt Lauer: Some local businesses are having to spend 50 or 60 percent more on their ad budgets.

Still, broadcasters try to accommodate their local advertisers, shoehorning their ads into less coveted TV turf. National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton says TV stations don’t want to hurt their long-term relationships with local advertisers.

Dennis Wharton: It’s much like a marriage. You want to be faithful to your partner, who’s with you 12 months out of the year as opposed to this fling with a super PAC.

Still, some of these marriages do show strain after a fling with a super PAC floozie.

Tammy Darvish: We’re just not going to get caught up in it, you know?

Tammy Darvish is planning to take a break from her local TV station. Darvish is vice president of DARCARS automotive group with dealerships in Virginia.  She says TV ad prices will go up a bit after Labor Day. But her big beef is her ads will be lost in the ad war crossfire.

Darvish: Our focus is on are we able to break through a lot of clutter so customers really hear our message.

Darvish won’t place any TV ads from Labor Day to election day. Putting all of her advertising dollars into Google search ads.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall-Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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