Analysis: Political Advertising – What Role did Hispanic Media Play?

Political advertising in the 2010 midterm elections easily toppped $3 billion; much more than the $2.4 billion spent during the last midterm elections, it even exceeds the $2.7 billion spent during the 2008 presidential campaign. (Article on Political Advertising in the General Market). But what piece has Hispanic media gotten from the $3 billion pie and what role did it play in the poltical process?

To vote or not to vote…

That’s the question. In the last presidential election Obama's victory was attributed among other factors to the incorporation of new voters, many of them became interested in politics and went to vote for the first time. This fact generated a wave of advertising aimed to discuss whether to go to vote or not.

Around the Hispanic vote, this election featured messages not only for candidates but to go to vote or not. The group “Latinos for Reform” launched a 60-second ad in Nevada, where Hispanics make up about 25 percent of the population. The spot urged Latinos to abstain from voting in order to punish Democrats for failing to deliver on immigration reform.

The struggle was not exclusive of Nevada. NDN, a Washington-based think tank and advocacy organization, delivered a message urging Latinos to vote. The message of the ads was, “If you don’t vote, you’re saying it’s ok for them to keep doing those things,” said NDN Senior Vice President Andres Ramirez. 

Hispanic media properties were forced to take part in the discussion and pick a side. Univision was originally going to air the spots urging Latinos to abstain from voting, but the media company decided not to air the ads saying it “prides itself on promoting civic engagement”.

Univision’s competitor had the same reaction. Telemundo launched an aggressive informational campaign on its multiple news platforms, looking to motivate Hispanic audiences to exercise their right to vote. Also, Telemundo launched “Tu Voto, Tu Futuro” (Your Vote, Your Future) campaign across all its digital and media platforms.

Who is advertising?

A national advocacy organization for immigrants launched a Spanish-language media blitz in Nevada in an attempt to use a recent stream of anti-illegal immigration ads from Sharron Angle’s campaign as a reason for Hispanics to vote. The sixty-second spots – 154 of them – aired on Spanish-language radio for an average of almost one per hour between now and the election.

The women’s group Susan B. Anthony’s List made a last-ditch effort to help California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina defeat Sen. Barbara Boxer. The organization added $125,000 to keep its Spanish-language television ad supporting Fiorina on the air in the Fresno, San Francisco and Los Angeles markets.

This indicates that political parties and candidates were not the only ones targeting Hispanics to vote (or not to vote) for a candidate. Tomás Martinez, General Manager at Radio Caracol, told Portada that “Political parties advertising directly with us represent 80% to 85% of our total political advertising. The remaining 15-20% comes from PAC (Political Action Committees). Some candidates advertise themselves troughs PACs at a national level.”

PACs have the advantage of avoiding the spending limit that political parties have. The disadvantage is the rate, PAC advertising doesn’t have access to the minimum rate, as political parties do. (Read the Complete Interview with Tomás Martínez).