by Joe Adgie
Editor’s Note: Joe Adgie is a freelance journalist and former government reporter with the Henry Herald. This is the second in a series of pieces that Joe will provide The Clayton Crescent. The series evaluates the advertisements and The Clayton Crescent takes no political position and makes no endorsements of any of the claims or candidates profiled in these reports.– RK
In our last installment, we reviewed what the political ads on Atlanta television looked like the Monday after the election, six days after voters had gone to the polls. In that breakdown, we saw few advertisements on television, mostly for the Democratic challengers for the U.S. Senate.
However, the landscape has changed, and it is difficult to turn on an Atlanta network without being bombarded with ads related to the January 5 runoff election, either from candidates or from political action campaigns.
This week, the exercise will look at how funds have been spent on commercial airtime on WAGA-TV, the FOX affiliate in Atlanta, over the course of the last week. This exercise will review what candidates spent how much during the last week, how many ads were bought, and which commercial spot cost the most money.
On Fox 5, Republicans outspend Democrats
Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue has outspent his opponent, Democrat Jon Ossoff, although Ossoff was set to air more ads on Channel 5 than Perdue.
According to the Federal Communications Commission’s public inspection files, between November 17 and November 23, Ossoff’s campaign spent a net of $276,738.75 for 212 commercials to air during that time period.
Meanwhile, the Perdue campaign spent a net of $316,748.25 for 168 spots.
The difference in money spent has to do with when the ads air. For instance, Ossoff’s campaign aired five ads on the 4:00-4:30 a.m. timeslot of “Good Day Atlanta,” which, according to FCC records, cost just $90 to air. There were no records of Perdue’s campaign airing ads in that timeslot.
By comparison, the Perdue campaign bought two spots during NFL games on Sunday at $40,500 each, which cost them $81,000. Ossoff’s campaign did not appear to purchase spots on the NFL Sunday window, a window that could be more lucrative than others for broadcast stations.
The Sunday 1 p.m. timeslot aired the Atlanta Falcons in a losing performance to their hated rivals, the New Orleans Saints, annually one of the most-watched games for the Falcons all season.
Perhaps as a testament to either the fact the Falcons were playing on the early window, or to the fact that the Falcons were playing the Saints, the Perdue campaign was able to get another NFL Sunday spot at a rate of $18,000. Two games were scheduled to air on WAGA on Sunday, the second being a game between the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts.
The Perdue campaign did, however, purchase two spots on FOX’s “Thursday Night Football” for $13,500 each. That timeslot fell during an NFC West showdown between the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks.
In the other race for Senate, it appears that Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler has also outspent her opponent, Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock, although the time elements on their contracts with WAGA appear to be a little different.
From November 19 to November 25, Loeffler’s campaign has spent a net amount of $225,522 for 85 ads to air in that timeframe, while Warnock’s campaign has spent a net amount of $88,128 for 31 ads, all of which appear to air during WAGA’s news programs and “Good Day Atlanta.”
Loeffler’s campaign has bought ad spots across a variety of shows on the network, including WWE’s “Friday Night SmackDown” (two spots, $1,800 per spot, $3,600 in total), “Family Guy” (one spot worth $3,600), and an ad during the Falcons-Saints game on Sunday worth $54,000.
Tone of advertising turns sharply negative
And for their money, candidates are, for the most part, pulling no punches in going after their opponents. Most of the advertisements have taken a starkly different tone as compared to those in our first installment.
U.S. Senate: Loeffler v. Warnock
In the Loeffler-Warnock race, each candidate has taken jabs at the other.
Loeffler’s ad “Dangerous” accuses Warnock of being “a radical’s radical” and highlights a relationship between Warnock and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a popular bogeyman of conservatives during President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008:
In the ad, a clip of Wright saying “Not God Bless America, God damn America” is featured prominently.
The ad also accuses Warnock of attacking the military and police through archive video clips of Warnock’s sermons.
“Nobody can serve God and the military,” Warnock says in the ad.
In a video clip that appears to have been spliced, Warnock says “Police power…a kind of gangster and thug mentality.”
Warnock also says, “Somebody’s got to open up the jails.”
The Warnock ad “Kelly Is for Kelly” accuses the sitting senator of profiting from the COVID-19 pandemic:
“January 6. Billionaire Kelly Loeffler is sworn into office, and over the next 18 days, doesn’t make a single stock transaction. Then, Loeffler receives a confidential briefing on the threat of coronavirus and immediately starts dumping stocks. As Kelly Loeffler downplays the threat publicly, she makes sale after sale, getting rid of $3.1 million before the market crashes. Kelly’s for Kelly. Warnock is for us.”
Meanwhile, a group of stocks scroll over a video clip of Loeffler appearing on an episode of “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” The stocks include Resideo Technologies, Inc.; Ross Stores, Inc.; Keysight Technologies, Inc.; Comcast Corporation; the TJX Companies, Inc.; AutoZone, Inc.; Honeywell International, Inc.; Tencent Holdings Limited; Kirkland Lake Gold, Ltd.; Roku, Inc.; Funko, Inc.; Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Merck and Co. Inc.; Discover Financial Services; Delta Air Lines, Inc.; Emerson Electric Co.; and O’Reilly Automotive, Inc.
U.S. Senate: Perdue v. Ossoff
In the Ossoff-Perdue race, Perdue’s ad “Total” takes a harshly negative tone, putting his opponent in a group with “radical liberals” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Stacey Abrams, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), shown in the ad as menacing music plays:
Schumer: “Now we take Georgia, and then we change America!”
Ossoff: “Change is coming to America!”
“The blue wave is…comprised of those who are documented and undocumented!” Abrams says in a soundbite where audio levels and Abrams’ spoken emphasis change.
In another recut soundbite, Ocasio-Cortez says, “We win these races in Georgia…so that we don’t have to…negotiate.”
As photos of Schumer, Ossoff, Ocasio-Cortez, Abrams and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) appear on the screen, alongside text such as “Allow illegals to vote,” “Defund police,” “Private Health Insurance Taken Away,” and “Pack Supreme Court,” an announcer speaks in an ominous tone of voice:
“That’s their goal. Total radical control to bring horrific change to America. Only Georgians can save that. Vote David Perdue to save America.”
The ad concludes as the horror-movie music crossfades to uplifting strings in a major key and Perdue, wearing a denim jacket, strides through a field.
An ad from the Ossoff campaign,”Echo,” shows the COVID-19 death tally while President Donald Trump and Perdue are heard downplaying the virus:
Trump: “In terms of cases, it’s very, very few.”
Perdue: “Very, very few people have been exposed to it.”
Trump: “The risk to the American people remains very low.”
Perdue: “The risk of this…virus still remains low.” (The comment appeared to have been cut off.)
Trump: “We’ve had flus before–” (this soundbite also seemed to have been cut off.)
Perdue: “We’ve had ordinary flu seasons with more deaths.”
Trump: “Those numbers are nowhere near what was projected.”
Perdue: “The numbers projected were supposed to be much worse.”
Both say, “It’s going very well” as the death toll exceeds 240,000.
An announcer intones, “David Perdue ignored the medical experts, downplayed the crisis, and left us unprepared.”
As time has passed since the election, the frequency of political advertisements, as well as the tone of them, have changed dramatically. Positive ads have been outnumbered by ads attacking one candidate or another, and the ads are bombarding airwaves, airing one after another as thousands of dollars change hands at a time.
Next week, we will review the various political action committees that have come to Georgia and spent millions of dollars in advertising for the upcoming January 5 Senate runoff elections.