As WW reported last week, mayoral candidate Eileen Brady is outspending her primary opponents by a wide margin—her $824,000 is more than what Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith have spent, combined—and she's spent $233,500 of that on television ads. Her ads moved into heavy rotation last week, with Brady loaning her campaign $40,000. She looks positioned to push her mayoral foes off viewers' TV screens.

But there's a sliver of good news for Hales and Smith: TV advertising is significantly cheaper this year than in past election cycles.

Multiple advertising buyers tell WW that the cost of local TV time is down by as much as 30 percent from 2008—and it's costing 25 percent less than what they had budgeted. 

"TV is very cheap right now," says political consultant Mark Wiener, who is coordinating ads for City Council candidate Steve Novick. "It gives Charlie and maybe Jefferson a better chance to get their message out."

Contracts obtained from local TV stations show the cost of TV time may have dropped even more sharply than buyers estimate.

Charlie Hales is paying $350 for a 30-second weekday spot on the KOIN Local 6 evening news at 6 pm this week. That's 63 percent of the $550-a-spot that Sam Adams paid for the same time slot in April of 2008. Eileen Brady is paying $375 a spot for 30 seconds of airtime between 6 and 9 am this week—Metro president Tom Hughes was paying $1,000-a-spot in October of 2010.

The falling prices are a result of decreased demand: Retail spending on TV advertising is down, and there are few statewide or federal races to drive up the price. Leslie Peterson, an ad buyer with Peterson Media, says costs may not rise for the November general election either, since Oregon isn't a likely battleground state in the Presidential election.

Political analysts say the upshot is that Brady may not be able to spend Hales and Smith out of the race.

"The market rate usually precludes all but the best financed candidates," says Jim Moore, political science professor at Pacific University. "This really opens the door for Smith and Hales to get voters in their homes."

Lower TV costs are likely to help Hales and Smith avoid what Moore calls "the Brad Avakian problem." In the recent 1st Congressional District special election, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici started running TV ads a month ahead of Avakian, building a commanding lead she never relinquished.

"The lower cost basically prevents that from happening to Hales and Smith," Moore says. "Especially since the ads for all three of them are pretty bland."