Pol Ads Stoke Broadcasters

Jan 6, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Rudy Giuliani’s campaign has made the first network TV ad buy for the presidential contest in at least 12 years and maybe the first network TV buy ever in a presidential primary race.
The buy—a 60-second spot that ran on “Fox News Sunday” Dec. 30 and another 30-second ad that was scheduled to run on the same show Jan. 6—signal that the new quicker primary calendar could upend traditional political media strategies and that presidential ad spending could continue to be strong.
Word of Mr. Giuliani’s TV buy comes on the heels of record political spending in Iowa surrounding last Thursday’s caucuses.
Iowa saw $53 million in advertising before it ended, compared with just $9.1 million four years ago, and the bulk of it—more than $45 million—went to broadcast stations. Another $6 million went to cable spot buys, according to Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNSI Media Intelligence’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.
The spending likely will prompt some happy days at Citadel Broadcasting, which owns three Iowa stations; Oak Hill Partners, which owns two; Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns two; Quincy Newspapers, which owns two; and Mediacom Communications, the biggest cable system operator in the state. Hearst-Argyle owns only one Iowa station in Des Moines, but is in the enviable position of owning a station there and owning New Hampshire’s only in-state commercial TV station, WMUR-TV in Manchester.
Advertising, already heavy in New Hampshire before the Iowa caucuses, only intensified in the wake of them.
“We are not sold out yet,” said Jeff Bartlett, general manager of WMUR, who added that it was usual for local advertisers to cut back a little after Christmas. He said while the station was still selling ads late last week, some time slots were “tight.” Political ads currently are account for about 70% of the station’s local advertising, he said.
On Jan. 5, WMUR and ABC jointly aired a New Hampshire debate that included local analysis and local advertising breaks.
Political observers said with the retail campaigning of Iowa past and New Hampshire ending Tuesday, candidates now become even more dependent on ads as their primary weapons.
They also caution that despite the media attention paid to Mitt Romney’s problem translating Iowa ad spending into votes, Barack Obama’s campaign used the most Iowa ads, and successfully.
“From an advertising perspective, there is no definitive evidence that advertising doesn’t work,” TNSI’s Mr. Tracey said.
John Zogby, president and CEO of polling firm Zogby International, said the results could signal that it’s not just the amount of advertising that determines the race but the type. Also, too much advertising of the wrong type can be worse than not enough.
“There is a law of diminishing return. You can advertise too much,” he said of Mr. Romney’s efforts. “People get tired of seeing the same old face—and he went negative. Iowans didn’t like it.”
Mr. Zogby said on the Democratic side, the race indicated the dangers of too much targeting to demographic breakdowns.
While more women came to the Democratic caucus, an outcome that had been expected to benefit Hillary Clinton, it turned out that many of the newcomers were younger women who sided with Mr. Obama or John Edwards.
“In this instance, they were younger first, before they were women,” Mr. Zogby said, suggesting the younger women were less interested in seeing a woman president immediately.
Observers said the speed of the compressed primary calendar from here on out and the need to quickly revise strategy put a premium on ads.
Feb. 5’s Super Duper Tuesday, when more than 20 states vote, raises the importance.
Mr. Giuliani’s buy is seen as an indication that the economics of reaching voters in multiple states may alter the traditional state-by-state buying.
“Network buys are very likely leading up to Super-Duper Tuesday,” said Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “Most of the giant states such as California and New York are voting then. Of course, many if not most of the candidates on both sides will probably be out of their party contests by then. The remaining contenders will still have a bucketful of money to spend. How else could you communicate with 21 states at once?”
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, suggested the Giuliani national campaign buy offers a quick way to deal with poll numbers.
“Rudy needs to bring his national poll numbers back up and erode his slide in national polls. A national buy is a logical way to do that,” she said. She noted the national spending is a long way from the manner in which independent candidate Ross Perot used national half-hour discussions during the 1992 campaign.


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