President Obama's re-election campaign ran more than 5,000 TV ads in six days last month, its first major advertizing blitz of the 2012 cycle, according to a new report by the Wesleyan Media Project.
The on-air offensive, which touted Obama's "unprecedented" record on ethics reform and investments in the green energy economy, targeted 25 media markets in six swing states: Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The buy cost an estimated $1.4 million through Jan. 25, Wesleyan found.
"Advertising market placement is like a tell, and it is clear that the Obama campaign views these battleground states as most important at this stage of the game," said Michael Franz, associate professor of government at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.
The Obama campaign explained the placement last month as an attempt to rebut attacks on the president by pro-Republican super PACs over the same airwaves.
Americans for Prosperity, mentioned specifically in the Obama ad, said last month it planned to spend an estimated $6 million on TV ads attacking Obama in the same states.
The Wesleyan Media Project says the Karl Rove-backed group Crossroads GPS and the American Petroleum Institute were also active in those markets, running hundreds of ads combined in several months.
Americans for Prosperity aired 2292 total spots in 26 markets during those same dates, while the American Petroleum Institute aired 78 of their 1495 in 15 markets during the same dates, Wesleyan reported.
"I can't remember a time when so many groups were so involved in general election advertising so early," noted Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.
"Outside groups are spending more money per ad than candidates, which makes examining the balance of actual ads voters are seeing very crucial when attempting to tease out their influence," she added.
The top three cities that saw the Obama ad most were Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., and Green Bay, Wis., where it aired a combined 933 times.
The 30-second spot also ran more than 200 times in Madison, Wis., Detroit, Cleveland, and Roanoke, Va.