Congressional candidates take to the television airwaves

Congressional candidates take to the television airwaves

By Erich Wagner (File photo)

Democratic candidates vying to replace the retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) who are willing to shell out campaign funds for TV ads are exploring ways to reach Alexandria voters in the massive D.C. media market.

Political analysts have repeatedly said that advertising on TV for local campaigns is ineffective in the metropolitan area, because candidates can’t be sure if their pitches reach voters, as opposed to D.C. or Maryland residents.

But Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer have both released TV ads in recent weeks. They are using cable advertising to target their constituencies.

The Beyer campaign announced a “six-figure” ad buy last month. Campaign spokeswoman Ann O’Hanlon declined to release the exact price of the spot, but said it was a cable buy “to reach targeted Democratic voters.”

“It’s the people we want to be talking to,” she said. “[We] have been weighing the effectiveness of different mediums and their costs, and we decided this was most effective.”

Euille employed a similar strategy, using the more segmented viewership of cable channels to ensure his message reaches local voters, said Ken Simons, a campaign spokesman. The Euille campaign purchased a $25,000 spot last month and debuted their ad on TV during game one of the Washington Wizards’ first-round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls.

“We looked at both cable and broadcast, but we decided to do cable because we’re able to look at our constituency and target our niche, as opposed to just a general buy [on broadcast channels],” Simons said.

Simons explained that when buying cable ads, campaigns can choose between channels and select certain events or timeslots for their ad.

“We picked the first game of the Bulls-Wizards series, and we had people calling us saying, ‘Oh, we just saw the ad on TNT,’” Simons said. “It’s an opportunity to get good traction because of the high-profile event of the playoffs.”

Simons said the Euille campaign is weighing buying radio ads before the June 10 primary. Volunteers also are taking to social media — like Twitter and Facebook — as well as employing traditional campaign tactics like manning phone banks and canvassing voters door-to-door.