In Switzerland, political actors do not only present their positions in the context of election campaigns, but they also reach out for voter support in the context of referendums and popular initiatives. This happens about four times a year. They do so by using their own means (own media), through the media coverage (free media) or through their political advertising (paid media). In this paper we analyze the character, the initiators of political advertisements and the arguments presented by them. Our saple consists of 375 issues of newspapers in the Swiss canton of Zurich. We found 107 campaign advertisements for three different issue-votes in the direct democratic vote on May 17, 2009. What had been discovered with regard to media coverage taking place during the weeks before the day of the direct democratic vote, our paper also confirms in the context of political advertising.
The campaign only takes place about four weeks before the voting day. Our results show that political actors combine their financial means and join ad-hoc campaign committees to plan and execute paid media – contrary to the ordinary news reporting (free media), which they use to present themselves as individual politicians, parties or organizations. Furthermore, advertisements are personalized and regionalized with well-known political representatives. Depending on the campaign issue, the targeting can be even more detailed.