First salvo fired in possible TV ad war on gay marriage

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The first trickle of television airtime has been purchased in what could be a torrent of issue ads this year involving a proposed referendum to ban same-sex mariage.

Locally based Advance America Inc., a conservative group headed by attorney Eric Miller, this month spent $14,050 for 23 spots on top-rated WTHR-TV Channel 13 and $6,550 for 29 spots on WISH-TV Channel 8, station records show.

The ads between Jan. 8 and Jan. 14 sported the images of legislators under a stormy sky. They were said to be trying to stop the Indiana General Assembly from allowing Hoosiers to vote next November to amend the constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

“Seven legislators should not stop the people from voting,” says the announcer.

Advance America spent between $100 per ad during the early mornings on WTHR to $1,250 per spot during the station’s 6 p.m. newscast. Besides WISH, it was not clear Wednesday morning whether other local stations had run referendum ads; WXIN-TV Fox59 and WRTV-TV Channel 6 have not reported any related data on ad buys.

Miller couldn’t be reached for comment. Advance America, not to be confused with a similarly named chain of payday loan shops, was previously known as Citizens Concerned for the Constitution.

The state Legislature is deliberating on whether to approve the referendum for November’s ballot. Recent hearings at the Statehouse brought emotional testimony from people opposed to the measure and from advocates of traditional marriage.

The latter group includes Miller’s Advance America, as well as a number of religious and traditional family groups, some of which are planning an ad campaign coordinated through the Indiana Family Institute.

Groups on both sides of the issue remain tight-lipped about their media buying plans, including Rick Sutton, president of Indiana Equality Action, which supports gay marriages.

“I think you’ll see all the typical [messaging] you see in a gubernatorial campaign. And it will not be small,” Sutton said.

Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, said previously that he wouldn’t be surprised to see opponents spend $15 million or more, based on media spends for battles in other states.

Veteran media buyers say television stations and other media outlets could enjoy lucrative ad revenue between now and November if the Legislature approves a vote at the ballot box. Money would likely flood Indiana from advocacy groups around the country.

But referendum votes are uncommon in Indiana, especially one involving such a combative issue. As such, “we have no way of knowing any more than anybody else what’s going to happen with this” in ad revenue, said Scott Hainey, director of creative services at WISH-TV.

Many groups in the marriage debate are holding off, for now—waiting to see if the Legislature clears the way for a vote. Hainey also noted that groups are likely to make use of social media and other forms of messaging.

Indiana Equality Action so far has relied primarily on social media and forms of grassroots messaging to muster its forces, Sutton said.

So-called issue ads have been very, very good for local TV stations in recent years, helping offset the loss of juicy candidate ads during election seasons.

For example, in the first half of 2013, WTHR booked more than $85,000 from 131 gun control ads from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the brainchild of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Issue ads from six different groups—addressing gun control, immigration policy, education, transit and free markets—during the first half of last year brought WTHR about $372,600.


  • The beginning of the end
    I completely agree, @Limited Government. The Republican Party has lost its way and now sadly caters only to the Tea Partiers with big bucks. Its only downhill from here for them.
  • No Republican Leadership
    Republican state representatives that are pushing this Amendment can no longer claim they are the representing the party of limited government and fiscal responsibility. Government being involved in personal decisions of marriage is not characteristic of limited government and the amount of time and money that will be wasted pursuing a discriminatory marriage ban is not fiscally responsible. We now live in an America where in 17 States (and counting), committed gay couples are provided full marriage rights and have equal protections under the laws, and an America where gay couples are still unable to legally protect their relationships and families. Any rational person can reasonably conclude that full marriage equality is coming to Indiana (regardless if the Amendment passes). This attempt by Republicans to appease constituants that want to use Government to justify/promote their misguided religious beliefs is a disgrace.
    Married couples get rights that singles do not whether it is cheaper tax rates or increased deductibles to property rights if the spouse dies. Not allowing people to marry restricts their rights. Thats DISCRIMINATION Period end of story. How much money will be spent defending DISCRIMINATION if this passes. Utah is authorizing $2 million for outside cousel to defend their position. People need to realize the consequences before it is too late.
  • Fools & Money
    One more example of fools and their money being soon parted. Homophobia's gettint expensive.
    • No Threat
      As a happily married heterosexual male I have no problem with men marrying men and women marrying women. I can only assume that people who do care feel threatened some how. Live and let live. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks the state legislators behind this bill were asked by media outlets to do so (for the ad money of course). Just like those who opposed civil rights in the 1960's you too will be on the wrong side of history if you support this silly referendum.
    • It does matter, and this is why
      What people like CAP and Patty don't understand is that this debate hurts Indiana because of how others perceive our State. Sure, gays who want to marry might be a small minority. Sure, maybe they only want to marry because of benefits. The real issue is that restricting those opportunities makes Indiana look unfriendly to people who aren't conservative traditionalists. The major corporations of today's world just will not take a risk on investing in that climate. THAT is a fact.
    • But CAP,
      I understand that you're bored by the debate, and you're not wrong that no one changes anyone's mind around here with common arguments. But the issue does matter. Gay people are among my biggest clients and potential creative and strategy hires. That the state is wasting time and making my professional life harder to run in Indiana matters a great deal.
    • All this for a few!
      As we all know, gays are a minority and those want to marry (legally) are a minority of the gays. I've worked with and have friends who are gay. They are all amazing, kind, fascinating, and energetic people. NONE of them has ever said they want to marry their current partner. The only issue was health coverage for their significant other. These days, they're covered! Oh wait, it's another distraction from REAL issues!! Who knew?
    • I want my piece of the pie, too!
      Fine. Let both sides throw money to make this an issue. But let's not leave it all going to the lawyers, pundits and special interests. How can I make a buck off of this circus? Remember the great gold rushes of California and Black Hills, South Dakota: the true money to be made was selling the equipment and day-to-day living expenses to those miners. They were searching for gold but paid heavily for the honor to not find it.
    • Can't wait....
      for all these ads... and for the comments soon to follow in this thread. They're certain to be the standard "biblical definition of marriage" and "Indiana is backwards and living in the 1880s" bs from both sides... but when it comes down to it, this issue really doesn't matter.

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