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Curtain to Rise on Schwarzenegger's Ad Campaign

Candidate's 60-second TV spot is expected to launch a blitz of political commercials.

August 19, 2003|Mark Z. Barabak | Times Staff Writer

Gubernatorial hopeful Arnold Schwarzenegger will make his advertising debut Wednesday with a television spot that is expected to begin a wave of political commercials -- from the actor and other candidates -- between now and Oct. 7.

The 60-second advertisement, unusually long for a California candidate, is set for broadcast throughout the state at a cost exceeding $1 million the first week, according to one campaign strategist. That's enough to ensure that the average California TV viewer will see the commercial several times over the next few days.

The advertisement features the actor discussing in broad terms "the direction he hopes to take California," according to a campaign advisor familiar with the spot.

Since entering the race, Republican Schwarzenegger has kept a relatively low profile, limiting his public appearances to controlled venues and skirting specific discussion of most issues. His first advertisement is due to coincide with a meeting Wednesday of his panel of economic advisors in Los Angeles -- including investor Warren Buffett and former Secretary of State George P. Shultz -- to be followed by a question-and-answer session with reporters.

Given the high price of the state's air time, it is rare for a candidate to run a television spot lasting 60 seconds. A prime-time ad half as long costs between $30,000 and $50,000 in Los Angeles, the nation's second-biggest television market.

As a basic rule, analysts say, a candidate must spend between $1 million and $2 million a week on statewide TV advertising to have a significant impact on voters.

But money is evidently not a concern for Schwarzenegger, who commands tens of millions of dollars per motion picture. He earned more than $57 million in 2000 and 2001 alone, according to his income-tax returns. Once he begins advertising, Schwarzenegger plans to stay on the air through the Oct. 7 recall election, campaign strategists said.

Although the advertisement is the first to air in the recall race, it marks a small-screen return of sorts for the action-movie hero, who appeared in a number of political spots in California last year promoting Proposition 49. The initiative, sponsored by Schwarzenegger as part of an effort to raise his political profile, sought to expand funding for after-school programs. It passed with 56% of the vote in November.

Other candidates in the recall were busy shaping their advertising strategies as well. Gov. Gray Davis, Republicans Bill Simon Jr. and Peter V. Ueberroth, and independent Arianna Huffington have begun pricing TV time in anticipation of their own ad campaigns, according to one political consultant who is monitoring statewide commercial traffic.

Ueberroth was also pricing radio ads in San Francisco and other markets while deciding whether to join Simon on the airwaves. Commercial time on radio is a comparative bargain: A 60-second advertisement in Los Angeles costs $1,500 for even a top-rated program. Simon, the 2002 Republican gubernatorial nominee, began airing radio spots in San Diego, San Francisco and the Central Valley last Friday.

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