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Campaign Buying Unabated

Sep 22, 2003  •  Post A Comment

For California TV stations, it’s full steam ahead when it comes to the state’s gubernatorial recall election.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s and the rest of the candidates’ media buying efforts remain in place despite the recent decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that the election should be moved from Oct. 7 to March.

The full court agreed Friday to convene Sept. 22 and reconsider the panel’s controversial decision.

“We are operating as if everything is OK for Oct. 7,” said Sheri Sadler Wolf, executive VP of Encino, Calif.-based Target Enterprises, the media agency for Mr. Schwarzenegger’s campaign. “If you wait you lose steam, you lose precious advertising time. We have been at very high levels the last two weeks.”

Overall, Ms. Wolf expects Mr. Schwarzenegger’s campaign, which has been airing some 370 spots per week on California TV stations, to spend about $10 million in advertising, the majority of it going to TV. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante is estimated to spend $6.5 million on advertising, and the advertising budget for Gov. Gray Davis’ campaign-which aims to vote down the recall election-is estimated at around $2 million. State Sen. Tom McClintock’s advertising budget is believed to be about $600,000.

Ms. Wolf believes candidates will spend about $35 million on election advertising. However, if the decision to move the election to March holds up, political media experts expect all media buying campaigns to stop immediately. Ms. Wolf said that in that case, the Schwarzenegger campaign would have to stop as well. “We can’t keep going at these spending levels,” she said.

So far, TV stations have been accommodating candidates’ media buys. Stations’ general sales managers initially were worried that there wouldn’t be enough room on their schedules for political advertising since the extremely strong local advertising market had them almost sold out. But Mike Kincaid, senior VP and general sales manager of Viacom-owned KCBS-TV and KCAL-TV in Los Angeles, said candidates now are getting on the air to their satisfaction-despite some limitations.

“Almost 80 percent of the stations have been setting limits. You can run up to four times a week, two times a week, or three times a week in specific shows. I can live with that,” Ms. Wolf said.