Obama, Romney dominate most-aired ads of 2012 cycle

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A new list of most-aired political ads shows a range of groups making their early mark on the 2012 election.

Of the five most-aired spots this election cycle, three were aimed at general election voters and the other two promote Mitt Romney in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, according to a list compiled by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.

The list reflects a landscape in which Republicans have far outpaced Democrats in the formation and financing of super PACs and the use of so-called “social welfare” organizations to run anonymously funded ads.

Republican-sponsored ads accounted for three of the five on the list: One was sponsored by a super PAC backing Romney, another was sponsored by Romney’s campaign and an ad aimed at defeating President Barack Obama was sponsored by Crossroads GPS, a social welfare group co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove.

Democrats, however, claimed the most aired spot so far, with an ad sponsored by the Obama re-election campaign. And despite talk that outside groups will usurp the role of traditional party committees, the Democratic National Committee _ in what is perhaps a sign of the Democrats’ slower embrace of outside groups _ was sponsor of the fifth most viewed ad, a spot defending Obama’s record on jobs.

Spot counts _ the number of times an ad has aired _ are one way to measure the intensity of an advertising effort.

The most-aired spot on the list, the Obama campaign’s “Unprecedented” ad, ran 6,190 times. The most-aired ad of the Florida GOP primary _ a spot by the Romney campaign featuring NBC’s Tom Brokaw _ ran 2,225 times.

Spot counts can also offer a window into the advertiser’s strategy.

The two pro-Romney ads on the list are still being aired in some markets, suggesting that the organizations behind them believe they’ve found a message that can resonate beyond a single primary campaign.

“For a primary, you get a lot of ads that are created specifically for certain markets, certain audiences, certain states,” said CMAG Vice President Elizabeth Wilner. “But the fact that the Romney campaign has been airing this ‘Moral Responsibility’ ad for a while suggests that they think that the message is relevant and durable.”

Another metric used to quantify the potential power of an ad campaign is the dollar figure spent to air the ads. But because airtime costs range considerably between different media markets, that figure can be misleading. Similarly, spot counts can sometimes mislead if a spot airs in the middle of the night, when few viewers will see it.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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