WASHINGTON – President Bush will run an Olympics-themed ad on a television network at 250 fitness centers in battleground states, a novel appeal to busy professionals who typically only watch TV from treadmills or stationary bikes.
"Freedom is spreading throughout the world like a sunrise," the 30-second ad says as a swimmer dives into a race lane. "This Olympics there will be two more free nations and two fewer terrorist regimes," a reference to new governments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Bush-Cheney campaign has committed a staggering $28 million to advertising in August, a sum that could still grow as strategists hone the campaign's state-by-state game plan heading into the fall election.
Aside from the health club network, the new ad also will run on national cable networks during Olympics and other sports programming. The Summer Games started Friday and end Aug. 29. Bush also is on the air in 19 competitive states with ads about his priorities.
To counter Bush's effort when Democratic Sen. John Kerry (search) is off the air to save money, an affiliate of the Democratic National Committee has bought about $20 million worth of airtime, including a new $7 million expenditure to run ads next week. The Media Fund, a group of Democratic insiders, also has spent $6 million over the first two weeks of August in nine key states.
When combined, the two groups have run even or higher levels of ads than Bush in many local media markets in key battleground states in the first two weeks of August.
To more precisely target his message, Bush — in a first for a presidential campaign — has turned to ClubCom Inc., a Pittsburgh-based company whose health club TV network reaches 8 million people a month who exercise at facilities including Gold's Gym and PowerHouse Gym.
His new ad will run on the network for two weeks starting Aug. 17 in clubs in 21 media markets in eight swing states — Arkansas, Florida, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon and Pennsylvania — as well as in Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Judging by the demographics of commercial health clubs, the ads will reach a very targeted cliental — mostly urban and suburban affluent and highly educated professionals age 25 to 44.
Matthew Dowd, the campaign's chief strategist, said the campaign is trying to "get to audiences that are harder to reach than ever before." That's especially important, Dowd said, "since the media is so diverse and the race is so close that any given state could be decided by a few thousand votes."
He said the campaign believes that people who lead busy lives and don't catch much information about the presidential race are "probably more undecided and persuadable."