Racial Balance, Part 2

In November, John Edwards began airing a series of ads called “Heroes” that called average Americans the heroes of the country. He first ran the ad in Iowa and then adapted the spot for the New Hampshire market by swapping in less rural, more New England-ish scenes.

Today he released the South Carolina version , which explicitly caters toward a larger African-American audience. Nearly 30 percent of the Palmetto State’s population is African-American, according to 2005 statistics from the U.S. census . That’s compared with 1 percent of New Hampshire and 2.3 percent of Iowa.

You can see a side-by-side-by-side comparison on Slate V . We wrote about this when Edwards swapped some characters for the New Hampshire version. Selections from that post are republished below.

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).

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.