Viewers who tune in tonight to see the TV industry’s Emmy Awards no doubt expect to encounter celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel, Mindy Kaling, Anthony Anderson and Sterling K. Brown. But they will also have a chance to meet Margaret, a stay-at-home mother of four from Wausau, Wisconsin.
In ads from Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign set to air during red-carpet coverage on NBCUniversal’s E! cable outlet and the main Emmys telecast on Walt Disney’s ABC, Margaret plans to offer some cold reality about life during the coronavirus pandemic among the glitzy TV trappings. The woman details how she’s trying to keep four young children moving forward in school and life, despite the obvious challenges.
“I want to know that kids in the United States are not gonna fall catastrophically behind because there was no plan and no leadership to get life moving again,” she says in a 30-second spot expected to appear during ABC’s coverage of the event. The 2019 Emmys, broadcast on Fox, captured an average audience of approximately 6.9 million.
In the commercial planned to run on E!, she says: “What’s been really hard for us and many families is that there’s just no end in sight,” then adds, “A lack of plan from the federal level has boiled all the way down now to the shoulders of households across the country.”
The Biden campaign feels the testimonials of real voters can persuade members of the Emmys audience who may be grappling with similar issues, says Amy Romanow, director of stories on the campaign. “It’s important to tell these stories in places where they will have a meaningful impact among viewers who have similar stories,” she says, in an interview. “We know there’s a higher viewership among women” for the awards, she adds, “and it felt like an important place to do this.”
ABC has been seeking between $367,000 and $550,000 for a 30-second spot during its primetime Emmys broadcast, according to a person familiar with negotiations between the network and advertisers. The Biden campaign declined to comment on spending behind tonight’s commercials, but says it spent $65 million last week on advertising across broadcast and digital outlets. The cost of a 30-second ad on E! this evening could not immediately be determined.
The Emmys have in recent years become a haven for advertisers seeking to hawk electronic gadgets and new streaming-video series, not political views. Samsung used Fox’s 2019 Emmys telecast to call attention to its Galaxy Note 10, which came with an “S-pen” stylus. Apple, Netflix and Amazon have used the event – typically a celebration of programs from broadcast and cable – to herald the arrival of broadband-delivered options such as Apple’s “Servant,” Amazon Prime’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and Netflix’s “The Politician.”
The campaign has in recent weeks worked to have a presence in some of TV’s bigger cultural events, including broadcasts of NFL games and the MTV Video Music Awards, conscious that these programs tend to lure a broader audience than the ones who might see a regular spate of political ads on cable-news outlets or local TV stations. Two ads in the VMAs encouraged what is typically an audience of younger viewers to vote.
Margaret, whose last name is not disclosed, was discovered after the campaign made outreach to its state organizers, says Romanow, as part of a bid to find people willing to talk about the situations they face in America. “I think she just felt that aside from voting and volunteering, one way to have an impact is by sharing your story,” she says.
Finding willing subjects can be tough, Romanow acknowledges, as some people worry about facing backlash after appearing on camera. But the spots are meant to simply depict individual stories. “We try to lift up their own experiences.”