Campaign Ads Come Early in Black Papers

By: Mark Fitzgerald

As Sen. John Kerry prepares to formally accept the Democratic presidential nomination this week, readers of black-interest newspapers across the country are seeing an unprecedented blitz of early advertising for his campaign.

Roland Martin, editorial consultant for the daily Chicago Defender, said the Kerry campaign ads are the earliest he’s ever seen. “Typically, the Democrats will begin their intensive advertising in the first or second week of October,” he said.

But full-page ads with the theme “Get to know John Kerry” began appearing in the Defender and other black papers more than a week ago. The early blitz is part of what the Kerry campaign announced July 14 as an “historic African-American ad buy” that commits $2 million in spending to black media. Though the campaign did not respond to messages about how the money will be divided among media, it’s expected that radio would get the biggest share, followed by newspapers and cable television channels such as BET.

The ads were a pleasant surprise for The Weekly Challenger, a 20,000-paid circulation paper in St. Petersburg, Fla. The first ad showed up last week and was followed by one for this week’s issue. Advertising Manager Shirley Morgan said she’s not sure how long they will continue. “They haven’t said, but we’re just glad to get (the ads) week to week,” she said.

Florida, of course, is one of the so-called “battleground” states where both Kerry and President Bush are focusing their advertising efforts. What’s unusual about this black media buy is that it is also aggressive in Chicago, a heavily Democratic city in a state Al Gore easily won in 2000. The Bush campaign basically conceded the state, even before the Republican’s U.S. senatorial nominee said he was withdrawing from the race because of a sex club scandal.

But Martin said Kerry strategists have told him the ads have a “dual purpose,” to shore up the candidate’s support in the traditionally Democratic black demographic — and to push the senatorial campaign of Barack Obama, an African American.

The Defender ad buy also includes four weeklies owned by Real Times, and two of those are in the hotly contested state of Michigan, Martin noted.

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