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2/5: Advocacy Ads: The Lasting Impact?

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2/5: Advocacy Ads: The Lasting Impact?

Peggy Wehmeyer was the national religion correspondent for ABC-TV.  She spoke with the Marist Poll’s John Sparks on possible effects of the Tim Tebow/Focus on the Family Super Bowl Commercial.

John Sparks
Peggy, while there’ve been television commercials aired by Pro-Life groups in the past, there hasn’t really been such a precedent to air one during a national broadcast that would attract 90-million viewers like the Super Bowl. With CBS’ decision to accept the ad, do you think that we might see more of this sort of ad placement in the future?

Listen to the interview:

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Peggy Wehmeyer
I think unless CBS changes its position after this based on the outcry to the ad that they’re getting, sure, I would expect we’ll see more of these kinds of ads in the future. I mean, look at all the publicity it’s getting, which might actually be good for CBS. If anyone who had forgotten over the last few years who Focus on the Family was, they’re now back on the radar screen, and I would imagine their donations will even go up as a result of this, so I would think so.

John Sparks
What would you say the pros and cons are for Focus on the Family about running such an ad?

Peggy Wehmeyer
You know, I think the pros will be, as I mentioned, that it puts them back on the radar screen. They’re an activist organization. They want this kind of attention especially on social issues like abortion. So for the people who have supported Focus on the Family in the past, this is going to be evidence that “Oh, they’re still doing some — they’re still stirring up the waters. They’re still doing what we used to support them for doing,” and it might actually engender more dedication to this group. My guess is, and I’m not certain, but there’s probably — they have less support than they used to, so maybe this will be a good thing from their point of view. On the other hand, it will make their so-called enemies of the people who have never liked what Focus on the Family stands for. It will probably harden their positions against them, but that might actually help Focus on the Family also because that’s part of how they fundraise.

John Sparks
So do you think that they run the risk of drawing more negative attention than positive on this thing?

Peggy Wehmeyer
You know, I think Focus on the Family would hope to use Tim Tebow’s celebrity status to sway people who might be in the middle on the abortion issue, and I think that’s where most people are. So from Focus on the Family’s perspective, I think for them it might be a positive thing. Politically, it puts them in the position from the less point of view, at least, of being troublemakers.

John Sparks
Do you think that there is some yardstick measure that they might use to determine if the Tebow ad is successful?

Peggy Wehmeyer
You know, I think it’s very hard to measure whether this ad is successful if it runs. And I guess it depends on how you define success. Did you define it by saying, “Did it stop women from getting abortions?” Perhaps you could do some kind of scientific poll with those who saw the ad and ask them whether it changed their views on abortion. I doubt actually it will. Most likely, I would expect it to strengthen people’s support of groups like Focus on the Family who sponsored the ad or create an even greater backlash against these kinds of groups. You could measure … one way you could measure is whether donations to Focus on the Family, which sponsored the ad, are up or maybe donations to Pro-Life groups went up. I mean you could look at that, I suppose.

John Sparks
I’ve heard a report that suggests that more viewers of the Super Bowl over the years remember the ads than they do even the teams or the scores of a particular Super Bowl. If that’s indeed true, what kind of impact do you think the Tebow ad might have for Focus on the Family and the Pro-Life movement?

Peggy Wehmeyer
Well, it’s really hard to pinpoint what the impact of this ad will be. Sure there’s a chance. There’s a chance it might make a young pregnant girl think about having an abortion. It might make her change her mind about an abortion. It will make Pro-Choice people even more adamant that they get their message out. It might really ramp up the whole abortion debate. Mostly I think the Tim Tebow ad will fuel, unfortunately, the culture war battle lines over abortion. But you know these things don’t last for long because they die down after awhile, so I don’t anticipate that it will have any real long-term impact.

John Sparks
So do you think with CBS accepting the ad that NARAL and other groups might seek to buy time in next year’s Super Bowl or the World Series or the Final Four?

Peggy Wehmeyer
Sure. I think women’s groups and other liberal groups will shout and protest about this airing of the ad; and if they don’t win their campaign to stop it from getting on CBS and CBS airs it anyway, it wouldn’t really surprise me if they take the tact: Well if you can’t beat them, join them, and then we’ll have dueling ads. But I doubt CBS is going to let that or any other network would let that get out of hand.

John Sparks
Speaking of getting out of hand, if we could envision commercial breaks at national sporting events becoming cluttered with advocacy ads, do you think that the networks might reverse this position? CBS kind of put it out there in accepting this ad. It’s kind of a first for a national ad buy like this.

Peggy Wehmeyer
You know, I think CBS and the networks have control over their advertising space. There are too many other advertisers who are not advocating social issues that are clamoring for air time. I doubt commercial breaks will be cluttered with advocacy ads. The public would hate it, and it wouldn’t help the network, and the network will always do what is in its best interest.

Related Stories:

2/5: Advocacy Ads: A Broadcast Veteran’s View

2/5: Advocacy Ads During the Super Bowl? Public Okays Tebow Ad


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