In a move unprecedented in the last two decades of political campaigning, billionaire Michael Bloomberg is buying three minutes of broadcast television commercial airtime for a speech, his campaign just announced. The pretaped address will focus on the coronavirus, the effect the outbreak is having on the global economy, and the need for “a leader with experience to handle the crisis.”
The speech will air around 8:30pm tomorrow on NBC and CBS simultaneously. That’s a day after South Carolina primary, where moderate rival Joe Biden is expected to dominate, and two days before Super Tuesday, the first real electoral contest for the massive Bloomberg campaign operation.
While Nixon was one of the first candidates to buy airtime for promotional programming all the way back in 1968, Ross Perot pioneered the modern genre of the political informercial during his unsuccessful third-party run in 1992. The fellow billionaire bought 30 minute chunks of prime time airtime to give policy speeches. His rival, Bill Clinton, also bought chunks of local airtime during the primaries to air tightly controlled town halls.
While all modern presidential campaigns reserve small chunks of airtime for 30-60 second ads, it’s unusual to book so much time, especially to address a major domestic crisis.