Anti-Poverty Ad Cost $250K To Produce

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The New York Sun

A bare-bones anti-poverty television advertisement featuring the face of Matt Damon, along with the voices of Cindy McCain, Michelle Obama, Mayor Bloomberg, and others, cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars to produce, federal records show.

A group seeking to build support for greater aid to the developing world, the One Campaign, spent more than $1.5 million for television time and Internet placement for the 30-second spot during the Democratic and Republican conventions, according to the report filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission.

The ad begins with Mr. Damon speaking directly to the camera, but as the spot progresses other voices are dubbed in over Mr. Damon’s moving lips. “Thanks to everyday Americans who chose to make a difference, millions of lives have been saved in the world’s poorest countries. Forty-one million more children have been able to go to school. Three million more people living with AIDS have access to lifesaving medication,” the series of voices declares. “But there’s still more to do. In this election year, please join the millions of Americans from every party, Democrats, Republicans, independents, who are coming together as One. We welcome your voice.”

According to the group’s Web site, Mrs. McCain says, “but there’s still more to do,” Mr. Bloomberg handles the shout-out to the three political persuasions, and Mrs. Obama speaks of “coming together as One.”

A spokesman for the One Campaign, Thomas Gavin, said the ad was timed to the conventions to encourage the Democratic nominee, Senator Obama, and the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator McCain, to flesh out their ideas for ending extreme poverty. “The ad is designed to remind them during their political conventions that this is the time to come forward with more concrete plans,” Mr. Gavin said.

The nonprofit group paid a Richmond, Va.-based advertising firm, the Martin Agency, $249,877 earlier this month to put together the ad, called “Voices,” the federal report said.

“Yikes,” a Boston University professor who studies political advertising, Tobe Berkovitz, said when told of the price tag. “We’re not talking Third World production costs. … I have a hard time figuring out how that could be a quarter million.”

A Republican operative who purchased ad time for political campaigns, Scott Reed, noted that the spot consists of a single camera shot, followed by a simple still graphic. “It’s about 10 times what production should cost for a head-on spot. I could see paying $25,000 tops,” Mr. Reed said. “This is just putting one guy in the studio and recording some voices.”

Mr. Gavin said he wasn’t privy to the budget for the ad, but that travel drove up the cost. “Matt was in Miami and couldn’t leave because his wife was about to give birth. The other voices were filmed in various places around the country. Michelle Obama recorded her section in Chicago and Mrs. McCain’s was somewhere else,” the spokesman said.

The One Campaign’s reports do not identify its donors, but the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced in 2004 that it had pledged $3 million to the effort.

According to the FEC report, the advertising time for the latest spot was purchased through a communications firm with strong Democratic Party connections, Glover Park Group, which was paid $1,557,559.

A spokesman for the Martin Agency declined to comment about the budget. The agency’s other clients include Wal-Mart and Vice President Gore’s global warming-related campaign, the Alliance for Climate Protection.

The New York Sun

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