Know Your Ad Trends: The Out-of-State Homespun Pitch

The rise of the giant outside ad buys that try to feel local.

Over 48-odd hours in New Hampshire, it was hard to miss the new spot from Ending Spending Action. It ran twice during WMUR's debate; the most striking aspect, as Matt Boyle pointed out, was how it warned voters that President Obama would single-handedly make amnesty happen after the election, by executive order.

Just as striking was the 60-second radio ad Ending Spending had put on repeat. It told Scott Brown's life story, down to the childhood visits his family made to Rye, where he went on to buy a home. "The best senator for New Hampshire," promised a narrator. This stood out, because Ending Spending, heavily funded by the Ricketts family, is based not in New Hampshire but Omaha.

That reminded me of a new Americans for Prosperity ad that had gone up the week before, in Iowa. In the ten thousandth-or-so attempt to capitalize on the story of Democratic candidate Bruce Braley arguing with a neighbor over the therapeutic chickens that kept ambling into his yard, AFP put together 30 seconds of bro-esque chickens being afraid to walk outside, lest Braley sue them. "Not very Iowa," went the tagline.

The farmyard nature of this story (which took place in a suburban vacation neighborhood, not a farm) has had plenty to do with its national vitality. It fits right into the outsider's view of Iowa as a place of humble farm folk who, once a summer, eat anything carnies are willing to deep-fry. But AFP is not a homegrown Iowa group; it's the David Koch-chaired mega-organization that's headquartered in the (non-union) D.C. suburbs of Virginia. Not that the trope of PACs barreling into states and informing voters of which candidate is and is not native enough is reserved for conservatives. Mayday PAC, Larry Lessig's reform group, has focused its ad money in South Dakota on folksy ads starring real Dakotans who are fed up with the insiders and corruption.

So, is that ad about the most relatable candidate funded by people who live anywhere near you? Probably not.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE