Racial Balance

John Edwards rereleased his Iowa “Heroes” ad in New Hampshire today, but not all of the b-roll characters made the trip. (Watch the original Iowa ad here; here’s the New Hampshire version .) The ads share the same audio track a speech about true American heroes but the campaign has made a few visual changes.

Gone are the tractors, suspenders, and trucker hats. Instead, the new characters have nondescript profile shots. The ad replaces an image of an older white couple with two younger adults, one of whom appears to be a person of color. Plus, instead of a white woman near the end of the ad, the ad shows a black woman.

The changes come after the Iowa ad caught flak from bloggers for being almost exclusively white. The Edwards campaign countered that the waitress in the diner is Hispanic, but ABC News’ Jake Tapper insisted that the “optics” of the ad didn’t convey any diversity.  

Edwards’ national spokesman, Eric Schultz, told me that the “Heroes” series of ads “highlights the hard-working men and women from across the country.” The new version, he says, is specific to New Hampshire, and the new faces in it are all New Hampshire residents. Many of the characters in the Iowa ad, however, are also in the New Hampshire ad (including the Latina waitress).

According to the Census Bureau’s 2005 stats, New Hampshire’s percentage of black residents is half that of Iowa 1 percent to 2.3 percent. Similarly with Hispanics 2.2 percent to 3.7 percent. Which makes it interesting that the New Hampshire version has more minorities in it. Still, the changes may be an effort to better reflect the demographics of the audience.  

What we’re seeing may be yet another example of the YouTube Effect. Advertisements can no longer be contained to a specific audience in the age of YouTube. The campaign got burned on its Iowa ad because the world had access to it, not just 3 million Iowa residents. Now we have a different set of characters in the New Hampshire ad.

UPDATE 2:32 p.m.: Here’s a side-by-side comparison our SlateV team put together. Allow it about 20 seconds to load: