Tracking Political Ads in Smaller Media Markets

Some districts harder to track than others, but not many competitive races are affected

(MIDDLETOWN, CT) July 24, 2019 – The Wesleyan Media Project obtains ad data from Kantar Media/CMAG, which represents the most comprehensive and systematic collection on the content and targeting of political advertisements.

There is, however, one feature of Kantar’s data that we want to highlight for our data users: each media market in the country is either a “discovery” market or a “non-discovery” market. Discovery markets have technology that allows them to compare new sound wave patterns from ads to the existing database to determine whether an ad is one the system has heard before. If the ad is new, then it adds it to the database.

Markets that do not have this capability (i.e., non-discovery or tracking markets) can only record instances of ads that are already in the system. Kantar has distributed discovery markets such that there is at least one discovery market for each state (and frequently multiple markets based typically on population size), but we sometimes find that, for example, congressional races that are in small markets may not always have advertising in Kantar’s dataset because the ads ran only in non-discovery markets. This should be less of a problem for statewide campaigns and product advertising, but it can be an issue for congressional and local races.

The Wesleyan Media Project has obtained and is providing here information on the discovery status of all 210 media markets for each election cycle since 2010. Table 1 shows a breakdown of the number of markets that are discovery and non-discovery from 2010 to 2018. A market-level breakdown is available in Table 2. While we have data for each election cycle, we do not have the exact dates that the status of markets switched (i.e., from non-discovery to discovery). 

Table 1: Discovery vs. Non-Discovery Market Counts 2010 – 2018

Election
Cycle
Discovery
Markets
Non-Discovery
Markets
201012387
201212585
201412585
201612684
201813476

Table 2: Media Market Discovery Status 2010 – 2018

DMAMedia MarketDominant
State*
20102012201420162018Status
*Primary state covered by the media market. Many media markets cover multiple states.
Click here to download the file as a .csv.
743Anchorage AKAK11111Always discovery
745Fairbanks AKAK00000Always non-discovery
747Juneau AKAK00000Always non-discovery
630Birmingham ALAL11111Always discovery
606Dothan ALAL00000Always non-discovery
691Huntsville ALAL11111Always discovery
686Mobile ALAL11111Always discovery
698Montgomery ALAL11111Always discovery
670Fort Smith ARAR11111Always discovery
734Jonesboro ARAR00000Always non-discovery
693Little Rock ARAR11111Always discovery
753Phoenix AZAZ11111Always discovery
789Tucson AZAZ11111Always discovery
771Yuma AZAZ00000Always non-discovery
800Bakersfield CACA11111Always discovery
868Chico CACA00000Always non-discovery
802Eureka CACA00000Always non-discovery
866Fresno CACA11111Always discovery
803Los Angeles CACA11111Always discovery
828Monterey CACA11111Always discovery
804Palm Springs CACA11111Always discovery
862Sacramento CACA11111Always discovery
825San Diego CACA11111Always discovery
807San Francisco CACA11111Always discovery
855Santa Barbara CACA11111Always discovery
752Colorado Springs COCO11111Always discovery
751Denver COCO11111Always discovery
773Grand Junction COCO00000Always non-discovery
533Hartford CTCT11111Always discovery
571Fort Myers FLFL11111Always discovery
592Gainesville FLFL00000Always non-discovery
561Jacksonville FLFL11111Always discovery
528Miami FLFL11111Always discovery
534Orlando FLFL11111Always discovery
656Panama City FLFL00000Always non-discovery
530Tallahassee FLFL11111Always discovery
539Tampa FLFL11111Always discovery
548West Palm Beach FLFL11111Always discovery
525Albany GAGA00000Always non-discovery
524Atlanta GAGA11111Always discovery
520Augusta GAGA11111Always discovery
522Columbus GAGA00011Discovery in 2016
503Macon GAGA11111Always discovery
507Savannah GAGA11111Always discovery
744Honolulu HIHI11111Always discovery
637Cedar Rapids IAIA11111Always discovery
679Des Moines IAIA11111Always discovery
631Ottumwa IAIA00000Always non-discovery
624Sioux City IAIA00000Always non-discovery
757Boise IDID11111Always discovery
758Idaho Falls IDID00000Always non-discovery
760Twin Falls IDID00000Always non-discovery
648Champaign ILIL11111Always discovery
602Chicago ILIL11111Always discovery
682Davenport IAIL11111Always discovery
632Paducah KYIL11111Always discovery
675Peoria ILIL11111Always discovery
717Quincy ILIL00000Always non-discovery
610Rockford ILIL00000Always non-discovery
649Evansville ININ11111Always discovery
509Fort Wayne ININ01111Discovery in 2012
527Indianapolis ININ11111Always discovery
582Lafayette ININ00000Always non-discovery
588South Bend ININ11111Always discovery
581Terre Haute ININ00000Always non-discovery
605Topeka KSKS00000Always non-discovery
678Wichita KSKS11111Always discovery
736Bowling Green KYKY00000Always non-discovery
541Lexington KYKY11111Always discovery
529Louisville KYKY11111Always discovery
644Alexandria LALA00000Always non-discovery
716Baton Rouge LALA11111Always discovery
642Lafayette LALA01111Discovery in 2012
643Lake Charles LALA00000Always non-discovery
628Monroe LALA00000Always non-discovery
622New Orleans LALA11111Always discovery
612Shreveport LALA11111Always discovery
506Boston MAMA11111Always discovery
543Springfield MAMA11111Always discovery
512Baltimore MDMD11111Always discovery
576Salisbury MDMD00000Always non-discovery
537Bangor MEME00001Discovery in 2018
500Portland MEME11111Always discovery
552Presque Isle MEME00001Discovery in 2018
583Alpena MIMI00000Always non-discovery
505Detroit MIMI11111Always discovery
513Flint MIMI11111Always discovery
563Grand Rapids MIMI11111Always discovery
551Lansing MIMI11111Always discovery
553Marquette MIMI00000Always non-discovery
540Traverse City MIMI00000Always non-discovery
676Duluth MNMN00001Discovery in 2018
737Mankato MNMN00000Always non-discovery
613Minneapolis MNMN11111Always discovery
611Rochester MNMN00000Always non-discovery
604Columbia MOMO00000Always non-discovery
603Joplin MOMO00000Always non-discovery
616Kansas City MOMO11111Always discovery
619Springfield MOMO11111Always discovery
638St. Joseph MOMO00000Always non-discovery
609St. Louis MOMO11111Always discovery
746Biloxi MSMS00000Always non-discovery
673Columbus MSMS00000Always non-discovery
647Greenwood MSMS00000Always non-discovery
710Hattiesburg MSMS00000Always non-discovery
718Jackson MSMS11111Always discovery
711Meridian MSMS00000Always non-discovery
756Billings MTMT11111Always discovery
754Butte MTMT00000Always non-discovery
798Glendive MTMT00000Always non-discovery
755Great Falls MTMT00001Discovery in 2018
766Helena MTMT00000Always non-discovery
762Missoula MTMT00000Always non-discovery
517Charlotte NCNC11111Always discovery
518Greensboro NCNC11111Always discovery
545Greenville NCNC11111Always discovery
560Raleigh NCNC11111Always discovery
550Wilmington NCNC00000Always non-discovery
724Fargo NDND11111Always discovery
687Minot SDND00000Always non-discovery
722Lincoln NENE00000Always non-discovery
740North Platte NENE00000Always non-discovery
652Omaha NENE11111Always discovery
790Albuquerque NMNM11111Always discovery
839Las Vegas NVNV11111Always discovery
811Reno NVNV11111Always discovery
532Albany NYNY11111Always discovery
502Binghamton NYNY00001Discovery in 2018
514Buffalo NYNY11111Always discovery
565Elmira NYNY00000Always non-discovery
501New York NYNY11111Always discovery
538Rochester NYNY11111Always discovery
555Syracuse NYNY11111Always discovery
526Utica NYNY00001Discovery in 2018
549Watertown NYNY00000Always non-discovery
515Cincinnati OHOH11111Always discovery
510Cleveland OHOH11111Always discovery
535Columbus OHOH11111Always discovery
542Dayton OHOH11111Always discovery
558Lima OHOH00000Always non-discovery
547Toledo OHOH11111Always discovery
554Wheeling WVOH00000Always non-discovery
536Youngstown OHOH11111Always discovery
596Zanesville OHOH00000Always non-discovery
650Oklahoma City OKOK11111Always discovery
657Sherman TXOK00000Always non-discovery
671Tulsa OKOK11111Always discovery
821Bend OROR00000Always non-discovery
801Eugene OROR00001Discovery in 2018
813Medford OROR00000Always non-discovery
820Portland OROR11111Always discovery
516Erie PAPA00000Always non-discovery
566Harrisburg PAPA11111Always discovery
574Johnstown PAPA11111Always discovery
504Philadelphia PAPA11111Always discovery
508Pittsburgh PAPA11111Always discovery
577Wilkes Barre PAPA11111Always discovery
521Providence RIRI11111Always discovery
519Charleston SCSC11111Always discovery
546Columbia SCSC11111Always discovery
567Greenville SCSC11111Always discovery
570Myrtle Beach SCSC00000Always non-discovery
764Rapid City SDSD00000Always non-discovery
725Sioux Falls SDSD11111Always discovery
575Chattanooga TNTN11111Always discovery
639Jackson TNTN00000Always non-discovery
557Knoxville TNTN11111Always discovery
640Memphis TNTN11111Always discovery
659Nashville TNTN11111Always discovery
531Tri-Cities TNTN11111Always discovery
662Abilene TXTX00000Always non-discovery
634Amarillo TXTX00000Always non-discovery
635Austin TXTX11111Always discovery
692Beaumont TXTX00000Always non-discovery
600Corpus Christi TXTX11111Always discovery
623Dallas TXTX11111Always discovery
765El Paso TXTX11111Always discovery
636Harlingen TXTX11111Always discovery
618Houston TXTX11111Always discovery
749Laredo TXTX00000Always non-discovery
651Lubbock TXTX00000Always non-discovery
633Odessa TXTX00000Always non-discovery
661San Angelo TXTX00000Always non-discovery
641San Antonio TXTX11111Always discovery
709Tyler TXTX11111Always discovery
626Victoria TXTX00000Always non-discovery
625Waco TXTX11111Always discovery
627Wichita Falls TXTX00000Always non-discovery
770Salt Lake City UTUT11111Always discovery
584Charlottesville VAVA00001Discovery in 2018
569Harrisonburg VAVA00000Always non-discovery
544Norfolk VAVA11111Always discovery
556Richmond VAVA11111Always discovery
573Roanoke VAVA11111Always discovery
511Washington DCVA11111Always discovery
523Burlington VTVT11111Always discovery
819Seattle WAWA11111Always discovery
881Spokane WAWA11111Always discovery
810Yakima WAWA00000Always non-discovery
658Green Bay WIWI11111Always discovery
702La Crosse WIWI00000Always non-discovery
669Madison WIWI11111Always discovery
617Milwaukee WIWI11111Always discovery
705Wausau WIWI00000Always non-discovery
559Bluefield WVWV00000Always non-discovery
564Charleston WVWV11111Always discovery
598Clarksburg WVWV00000Always non-discovery
597Parkersburg WVWV00000Always non-discovery
767Casper WYWY00000Always non-discovery
759Cheyenne WYWY00000Always non-discovery

The Impact on Ad Tracking

As mentioned above, this discovery market issue is not likely to have much of an impact on analyses of statewide advertising efforts (presidential, U. S. Senate, gubernatorial, etc.) because any particular creative is likely to air in multiple markets, some of which are discovery. The presence of non-discovery media markets, then, is primarily a concern for U.S. House races, as well as for other local races such as mayor and for marketing efforts where the ad message is likely to differ by media market.

Table 3 lists congressional districts where greater than 50% of constituents lived in a non-discovery media market in 2016. We’ll illustrate the issue by looking specifically at Mississippi’s 4th district. This district lies almost entirely within the Hattiesburg and Biloxi media markets, which are both non-discovery markets. This means that political ads that air in these markets will only be recorded by Kantar Media/CMAG if they have already been “discovered” by another media market. So if the ads for the U.S. House race in this district only aired in the Hattiesburg and Biloxi media markets, Kantar would not have ANY record of those ads.

The table also lists the competitiveness of the congressional race in the district, with higher scores indicating the most competitive races. Most races were not very competitive and thus probably saw minimal television advertising, but a few races, such as those in Michigan’s 1st congressional district, were competitive and thus likely saw substantial advertising.

Table 3: Flagged Congressional Districts with Competitive Scores 2012-2016

Congressional
District
2012 2014 2016
Note: Congressional districts where greater than 50% of constituents lived
in a non-discovery media market in 2016. Competitive Scores come from
CQ/Roll Call’s October pre-election ratings.
1 = safe seats,
2 = Democratic or Republican favored seats,
3 = Democratic or Republican leaning seats,
4 = Too-close-to-call races.
TEXAS-19111
MICHIGAN-01424
TEXAS-13111
MISSISSIPPI-04111
OREGON-04111
NEBRASKA-03111
SOUTH CAROLINA-07111
KANSAS-02111
TEXAS-11111
LOUISIANA-05111
CALIFORNIA-01111
MONTANA-00222
NEW YORK-22114
MINNESOTA-01111
OREGON-02111
WASHINGTON-04111
WEST VIRGINIA-01111
WISCONSIN-03111
WISCONSIN-07211
IDAHO-02111
NEBRASKA-01111
WYOMING-00111
MAINE-02134
ILLINOIS-16111
WEST VIRGINIA-03241
NEW YORK-23121
NORTH CAROLINA-07411
IOWA-04311
MISSISSIPPI-01111

The exact boundaries of media markets are determined by Nielsen, and WMP does not have access to them through our contract with Kantar Media/CMAG. Therefore, we have approximated the media market boundaries with counties as building blocks using resources in the public domain, not the proprietary Nielsen database. Calculations here related to percent population in a particular congressional district and media market are approximations.


About This Report

The Wesleyan Media Project (WMP) provides real-time tracking and analysis of political advertising in an effort to increase transparency in elections. Housed in Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center – part of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life – the Wesleyan Media Project is the successor to the Wisconsin Advertising Project, which disbanded in 2009. It is directed by Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government at Wesleyan University, Michael M. Franz, professor of government at Bowdoin College and Travis N. Ridout, professor of political science at Washington State University. WMP staff include Laura Baum (Project Manager), Dolly Haddad (Project Coordinator) and Matthew Motta (Research Associate).

Periodic releases of data will be posted on the project’s website and dispersed via Twitter @wesmediaproject. To be added to our email update list, click here.

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