Las Vegas Hit Hard By Political TV Ads In Spanish
October 29, 2012

via YouTube
President Barack Obama in a Spanish-language television ad airing in Nevada.

LAS VEGAS -- Nevada’s Latinos make up about 15 percent of registered voters. And because Las Vegas is a small television market, ads are cheap here. So campaigns, PACs and political committees are throwing millions of dollars at ads to sway Latino voters.

Ads like a pro-Mitt Romney spot criticizing Barack Obama’s immigration reform. Or another one with Obama speaking in Spanish as he praises immigrant students.

This year in Las Vegas alone, at least $4 million has been spent on Spanish-language TV ads at two stations -- Univision and Telemundo. That’s according to analyst firm Kantar Media. In 2008 only $600,000 was spent at the same two stations.

Some voters are fed up with it all. Miguel Funes moved here 15 years ago from Honduras. He says he’s tired of the mailers, the robocalls and the incessant barrage of political ads on TV.

“Usually when I turn on the TV, I want to watch something else,” Funes said, who works as an air conditioning technician. If there’s a moment you don’t want to watch the same thing -- especially when you already decided who you’re going to vote for. Oh, and calls. Ugh -- my phone at home is always ringing. Ring, ring, ring!”

But others like Alicia Alcuna, who moved to the U.S. from Argentina, likes the attention. She’s on medical leave from her job sewing uniforms at the Hard Rock Casino.

She says politicians make a first impression and cover important issues in these spots.

“Seeing these ads is important,” Alcuna said in Spanish. “It’s the first point of contact when I think ‘oh that interests me.' But it’s the fact that I saw it on television that first provoked my interest.”

But does the Spanish spoken in these ads matter?

Republican Dean Heller is campaigning for a Senate seat in Nevada. In one of his ads, his wife Lynne speaks in Spanish, praising Heller for being a good father, husband and grandfather.

In the ad, we see a pastoral scene -- Heller walking with Lynne, and leading a horse. Professor Federico Subervi gives this one a failing grade.

“Her Spanish doesn’t overcome the disconnect with that particular image,” said Subervi, who leads the Center for the Study of Latino Media and Markets at Texas State University in San Marcos.

“Showing him with a horse is kind of way out of social class for most Latinos,” Subervi added. “About being someone who takes care of a nice private horse in a nice private ranch -- that’s class beyond connection with Latinos.”

Subervi said campaigns should make these ads in English as well so that Latinos who don’t speak Spanish can refer to the same ad when discussing the campaigns.

But no matter the language, the common reference for Latino voters will be a candidate who speaks to their needs.

Take voter Alfonso Razo, who works at the Las Vegas Convention Center. He's not paying attention to the bad Spanish accents, but on who is going to follow through for the Latino community.

‘When they get elected, it would be good if they not only speak in Spanish but they actually put the effort to help us,” Razo said in Spanish, after voting at the East Las Vegas Community Center. “If they want our help, they shouldn’t forget Spanish once elected.”

In these last few days leading up to Election Day, Univision and its sister station TeleFutura say they have more than a thousand Spanish-language political ads lined up to air in Las Vegas.

Democrats have dominated the Spanish-language ads for the last year, but TV station management says for this home stretch, Republicans have outspent the rivals.