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Ad buying? No, Genius!

Don’t stop me if you have heard this before, because it is my favorite political media time buying story.

Newt Gingrich’s avowed plan to buy a half-hour of TV time before the Super Tuesday primary-a-thon next week reminded me of the story of the late Malcolm Forbes when he was running for governor of New Jersey in the 1950’s.

Forbes’ campaign decided to buy 24 hours on the only station in the state just before the election and starting at 10 p.m. Being Malcolm Forbes, he could afford it.

His opponent, Democrat Robert Meyner, who did not have the war chest of a Malcolm Forbes, responded with a stroke of media time-buying brilliance.

He bought the half-hour immediately preceding Forbes’ buy, gave a speech, followed by the National Anthem, a picture of the flag, and 10 minutes of static*. HUT levels plummeted. Forbes marathon pitch was mostly lost in the ether, as was his race for governor.

My thanks to the Campaign Legal Center and Sunlight Foundation for finding corroboration for a story I had hoped was not an apocryphal one but could not personally verify because apparently I can’t search the Web as well as I thought I could.

*For you nonBoomers, a note of explanation. Those were the days when TV stations actually signed off the air at night, some later than others, but many with the National Anthem and a flag or monument or sunset, followed by something called “static,” the hissing grey screen of black and white “noise” which was what we had when their was no signal instead of a blue or black screen or pixilated color blocks.