Indiana politicians are taking to the airwaves in the final weeks of the 2014 campaign season, but their efforts online may be having a bigger impact.
Democratic Secretary of State candidate Beth White and Republican Auditor Suzanne Crouch became the first statewide candidates to go on air with ads this week. In a 30-second spot, White riffs on her short stature saying, saying she would create shorter waits to vote if elected. Crouch plays on her trademark red-framed glasses in lighthearted piece.
Federal Communication Commission records show the pair bought roughly a week of airtime throughout the state, but that is likely to change in the coming weeks.
Ball State University journalism instructor John Strauss said Thursday that it's likely some campaigns are also focusing heavily on social media and online interaction. The growing power of online platforms has made it easier for campaigns to save money on air and tell their stories directly to voters.
"In a way, the campaign is covering itself on social media and its bypassing us, the media, to engage the voters increasingly where they live: online," said Strauss, a former reporter.
Potential supporters want more interaction than a television ad can provide, he said. He noted that White's ad — with its self-deprecating humor — seems geared to a younger audience that would be viewing it online.
Television advertising has long been a sign of a campaign's strength and reach. In other states, with more high-profile battles this year, the spending has been extensive. The Center for Public Integrity, working with Kantar Media Group, estimated that $430 million has been spent on-air so far in state races.
Just two years ago, in the thick of the 2012 races, ads for Indiana's U.S. Senate seat and the governor's office were a major presence.
But spending this year has been marginal. The CPI/Kantar study estimates $410,000 has been spent on-air in Indiana so far, but that amount ignores local cable spending and purchases made through Election Day.
The total spent on air by the Crouch and White was not immediately available Thursday afternoon. But Federal Communications Commission reports filed by area TV stations give an idea of how much each campaign is banking on the strategy.
For example, Crouch bought $42,350 worth of airtime on Indianapolis' WTHR through Oct. 15, while the White campaign bought $16,900 on the same station through Oct. 12. But the purchases are fluid at this point in the campaign and could be easily altered in the coming weeks.