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Briefings: Sarno First to Hit Airwaves in Springfield Mayoral Prelim…

UPDATED: 8/4/23 10:33PM: To include note of how many different ads are running.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno

Sarno to occupy your TV. (created from Google images & WMP&I photo)

To the surprise of no one, incumbent Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno is the first candidate to go on the air in the mayoral race. Fresh off a boffo fundraising months in June and July, Sarno will go on the air next week ahead of the preliminary in September. The initial investment is small relative to the size of his campaign war chest, is limited on broadcast stations and only runs through August 20.

Technically, Sarno has already been on the air in this campaign. However, that was part of an unorthodox decision to spend money to advertise his campaign kickoff. The wisdom and impact of that aside, moving onto the air now will likely become an opportunity for the city’s longest-serving mayor to make the case that his reign should endure.

The Sarno campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

The timing does not suggest anything on its own. Sarno usually buys ads ahead of an election. However, it often comes days before vote-counting begins. This year, Sarno faces three serious challengers in at-large Councilor Justin Hurst, Council President Jesse Lederman and State Rep Orlando Ramos.

The ad purchases are dated Thursday and placed via Sarno’s videographer and media consultant David Horgan of Horgan & Associates. While campaign spending for August will likely not become public until next month, the broadcasters must file political ads with the feds promptly.

WGGB’s filings show that Sarno has submitted at least three different ads that he will run. At least one his campaign dubbed “Success story” will his record on jobs, the economy, crime and education. Another has the name “Ask for your vote,” but few other details. The final one the campaign calls “Sister Mary,” possible a reference to Sister Mary Caritas, the former head of Mercy Hospital.

Since he has the cash, it makes sense for the mayor’s campaign to rush getting on air. Mail-in ballot applications should go out in days. Early voting begins August 30.

Sarno’s initial ad buy, before agent fees, is about $30,000. The buy runs from August 7 to August 20 as of his current order. Because of the size of the Springfield-Holyoke media market, ads are actually quite cheap.

While federal candidates have different rules, Springfield Congressman Richard Neal was able to capitalize on these cheap rates during his 2020 battle against then-Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse. Not only did Neal have the cash to buy ads, he reserved even earlier than Sarno is, locking in especially cheap rates.

For his money, Sarno will be advertising on WGGB and WWLP during peak hours.

Domenic Sarno

What will Sarno’s campaign ad say? Will it say anything? (WMP&I)

The campaign will air ads during WGGB’s early and evening broadcasts of Western Mass News. It also bought ads during ABC’s Good Morning America and Family Feud, which WGGB airs at 7pm. In total, 81 spots were purchased for $10,025.

On WWLP, Sarno bought fewer spots, but spent $20,400. The NBC affiliate has more viewers by far between the region’s two major broadcast stations. (WSHM, the CBS affiliate is a low-power sister channel to WGGB). The Sarno campaign will air ads during WWLP’s early morning and even newscasts, the Today show, and 4pm airings of Judge Judy.

Notably, none of the buys cover Friday, Saturday or Sunday. While Sarno has purchased air time on cable in the past, he has not done so as of yet. He may eventually. While the mayor’s raised nearly $100,000 in July, he spent considerably less. That gave him his first net gain in his campaign account in months. However, $30,000 for only two weeks of ads on broadcast will begin to add up.

That said, there is reason to believe all of the candidates for mayor will be able to afford some airtime. However, up to now, all candidates’ paid media has been on social media and direct mail.

The preliminary in September 12 when voters will pare the field down to two who will compete in November.