Ads by Romney, Hunter fail to make early marks

The first ads of the 2008 presidential campaign got lukewarm receptions from political insiders and are unlikely to be memorable when the primaries begin early next year, according to a survey by Wilson Research Strategies.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) made a splash by being the first major presidential candidate to launch campaign ads in important primary states. While their effectiveness was rated slightly above average, they didn’t strike respondents as particularly memorable or worth talking about.

Meanwhile, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) ran commercials in primary states through his political action committee (PAC), not his official campaign. Those ads scored average across the board except for their appeal, which was very low.

Respondents preferred Romney’s ads to Hunter’s by about a 2-to-1 margin, but Romney’s didn’t score significantly better in individual categories.

Romney’s ad features panning shots of the Republican candidate, flanked by a large American flag, giving a speech about his beliefs on how government should run.

The ad scored well for its strength of message and its effectiveness, with a 6.0 and 5.6, respectively, on a scale of 1 to 10. It fell short, however, in measures of memorability (4.8) and buzz-worthiness (4.5).

The ad did score well in every category among Republicans. But it wasn’t memorable or buzz-worthy among Democrats or independents.

Hunter’s ad, which shows him walking along the double fence at the Mexican border near San Diego and talking about illegal-immigration enforcement, scored slightly better for memorability and buzz, but it fell short on measures of effectiveness and appeal.

Respondents gave Hunter a 4.1 for the ad’s appeal and a 4.8 for its effectiveness. Independents and Democrats gave the commercial equally low marks, while Republicans scored it above 6.0 on every measure except appeal (5.6).

“The Hunter ad really doesn’t stand out at all,” said Chris Wilson, CEO of Wilson Research Strategies. “In fact, it’s a little bit below average in terms of effectiveness and appeal, which is where he probably needs to be doing a lot better.”

The ad, which was paid for by Hunter’s Peace Through Strength PAC, began running in January. The Romney ads began airing in February.

Working with The Hill for its Air War feature, Wilson Research Strategies e-mails campaign or issue ads to survey participants who view the ads and rate their effectiveness on several criteria.