Tuesday, July 08, 2008

7th District Media Markets

One of the most interesting political resources to emerge this year has been FiveThirtyEight.com, an election projection blog focusing on the presidential campaign. The site is run by Nate Silver (formerly blogging as "Poblano"), a professional statistician who took the tools of his day job-- analyzing baseball statistics-- and applied them to the presidential race.

Over the weekend, Nate took a look at television advertising in the presidential race, and whether or not it was efficient to advertise in certain states. As an example, suppose John McCain wanted to contest New Jersey. Because of the nature of television markets in that part of the country, McCain would need to spend money on ads in the New York and Philadelphia markets in order to cover the entire state. However, New York and Philadelphia are expensive and will cover a lot of non-New Jersey voters, so McCain would be wasting money on an inefficient state.

A similar problem faces Barack Obama with trying to win Virginia, as much of northern Virginia is covered by the Washington, DC market. However, that market also covers Maryland and DC itself, so a side effect of Obama targeting Virginia is unnecessary advertising in places where he shouldn't have to spend money.

This got me thinking about Michigan's 7th Congressional District and the challenges it presents for television advertising.

Of the 210 Designated Market Areas, there are four which cover the 7th District: Detroit, Lansing, Toledo, and Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo/Battle Creek.

The map above shows each of the different media markets, with approximate boundaries of the 7th District drawn in. It's worth noting that there is some overlap. For example, in the Lansing market, Toledo's WTOL and WTVG are "significantly viewed out-of-market broadcast stations," as are WWMT and WOOD out of Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo/Battle Creek. However, there's no one market which covers everyone in the district.

So how do you advertise in that? If you want to make sure you reach everyone everywhere, you've got to advertise in all four markets. But is it really worth it to have your ads also be playing in Muskegon, Michigan and Findlay, Ohio at the same time?

Normally, this is the point where I would find some sort of conclusion, but I don't have one. It could be that, because of the difficulty and cost to effectively advertise, the incumbent has the advantage. At the same time, if Mark Schauer is going to continue to out-raise Tim Walberg, any advertising war between them could lean toward Schauer, who might feel free to advertise in the Toledo or Detroit markets. But then, that's just speculation on my part.

Anyway, I thought I would share something I found interesting. I'll be eager to see how the candidates spend money on advertising closer to November.

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