First Ad Blitz in N.Y.C. Mayor’s Race Has an Unlikely Star: Obama

By Dana Rubinstein

Feb. 8, 2021


With the pandemic transforming New York City’s mayoral race into a mostly virtual affair, the best way to connect directly with voters would seem to be through television ads. Yet so far, the airwaves have been silent.


That will change on Tuesday, when Shaun Donovan, the former Obama and Bloomberg administration official, kicks off the first television ad campaign of any significance in the contest.


By being first out of the gate, Mr. Donovan is trying to gain attention and seize a narrative advantage, an opportunity that will diminish over time as his better-funded rivals, with presumably bigger advertising budgets, join the television fray. Still, this is the race’s first television advertising purchase, according to AdImpact, an advertising analytics firm.


As of Monday afternoon, the campaign had reserved $75,000 worth of cable advertising space for the week of Feb. 9, according to AdImpact. The ads will run on CNN, MSNBC and NY1.


The airing of the first ad will cost six figures, according to the campaign, which hopes to spend more than $1 million on television advertising by the June 22 primary. The ad’s timing, more than four months before that primary, is not coincidental.


“It doesn’t quite smack of desperation yet, but it’s clearly motivated by the fact that he’s in real danger of being marginalized as a second-tier candidate quickly,” said Neal Kwatra, a Democratic political consultant who is unaffiliated with any of the candidates. “And that matters a lot in a race that is so compressed and is such a sprint.”


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