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Friday, August 10, 2012

Already Viewed by Scores, Criticized \'Super PAC\' Ad Has Yet to Air as Paid Commercial


It is one of the most provocative ads of the presidential campaign so far. A former employee of a steel company that Bain Capital bought out tells how he and his cancer-stricken wife lost their health insurance after he was laid off. He all but blames Mitt Romney for her death.

The ad has been played repeatedly on the cable and network news since Priorities USA Action, the “super PAC” that produced it released it earlier this week.

One place it apparently hasn't appeared? During a commercial break.

According to Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, there are no instances of the ad ever running as a paid commercial. Kantar uses technology to trac k the appearance and frequency of political ads across the country. And so far their data show that the commercial has never aired on broadcast television or national cable.

Bill Burton, one of the founders of Priorities USA Action, acknowledged that the ad has indeed never aired. But all that free media attention has helped it chalk up it nearly half-a-million views online, according to YouTube.

More importantly for Mr. Burton and his super PAC, however, may be where the ad is being watched. Of the top five states where people are watching the ad, one is California - often in the top because of the size of the state. A reliably Democratic state in presidential elections, California is not a focus of either the Romney or Obama campaign.

But the other four are: Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia.

According to Mr. Burton, who said the ad will eventually run on television, it has been watched by 48,979 people in Flori da; 28,473 people in Pennsylvania; 23,739 people in Ohio and 22,887 people in Virginia.

Mr. Burton says the ad will eventually run on television. Until that happens, it will still have limited reach. But the controversy over the ad's premise may have provided millions of dollars in value for Mr. Burton's group.

It would hardly be a new trick for a campaign or political group to release a controversial ad that has little or no money behind it. They know the media is likely to devote extensive coverage to the commercial, giving it more exposure than an expensive ad buy could accomplish.

The Obama campaign attempted a similar trick with an attack ad featuring the same laid-off Bain employee, Joe Soptic. Mr. Soptic starred in a two-minute commercial that featured former workers of a steel mill in Kansas City, Mo. In one of the ad's more memorable lines, a worker likens Mr. Romney to a vampire, saying “He came in and sucked the life out of us.”

But th e Obama campaign put only $150,000 behind the ad. The ample attention it received on the news? Priceless.