Pennsylvania Stations May Get $40 Mil in Campaign Ads

Mar 9, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Six to seven weeks of massive political advertising spending are headed to Pennsylvania.
Political observers say Sen. Hillary Clinton’s victories over Sen. Barack Obama in the Ohio and Texas Democratic primaries last week could prompt the wildest ad-spending battle yet in a presidential campaign in which spending continues to exceed the most optimistic predictions.
Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNS Media Intelligence’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, suggests that if the candidates can raise the cash, more than $40 million could be spent in Pennsylvania in the weeks leading up to the April 22 primary.
Of course, any decision by Florida or Michigan to rerun their Democratic primary could divert some of that money.
As of last week, more than $210 million had been spent on presidential campaign advertising through 2007 and 2008, according to CMAG, exceeding the $64.5 million of four years ago. Just weeks ago, projections had the campaigns spending at least $50 million less.
Officials of the spot cable ad sales firm National Cable Communications said the candidates have made far more use of local cable ads than in past years, with 15% to 20% of media buys this year going to spot buys. They said 65% to 75% of the 30-second ads that ran in Ohio and Texas were on spot cable.
“It’s a huge opportunity for us,” said Dan Sinagoga, director of political advertising for Comcast Spotlight, the unit that sells advertising for Comcast cable systems. Philadelphia-based Comcast has the biggest chunk of cable subscribers in the Keystone State.
For media companies, the political spending has been welcome news amidst reports of pullbacks from auto makers, car dealers and real estate and financial services companies, although there remains doubt political advertising will fully make up for those losses.
“It has an effect. They help,” said Robert J. Coen, senior VP and director of forecasting at Universal McCann. He cautioned, however, that the total of presidential primary spending is small compared with overall ad spending and also small versus political advertising in the fall, when local-election advertising adds to the take.
The high expectations for spending in Pennsylvania stem from the tightness of the Democratic race and the crucial importance the state’s primary now holds. Also, the length of time between the bitter and combative Ohio and Texas contests and the Pennsylvania vote enables the candidates to intensely focus on the state.
“Clinton and Obama are playing match this [on fundraising],” said CMAG’s Mr. Tracey. “Then the likelihood that the ads will be warm and fuzzy is zero. That will also drive spending as candidates rush to react to each other’s messages.”
He predicted political advertising in the state will quickly reach the level of “a Category 5 storm.”
In Texas and Ohio, the $22 million spent exceeded the amount spent for Super Tuesday Feb. 5, when more than 20 state elections were in play.
Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, predicted an all-out battle.
“It’s going to be a seven-week war,” he said. “All the marbles have to fall in. Obama needs to put her away if he can.”
He said the Clinton campaign’s success in Ohio and Texas prove that negative attacks work; he predicted the Obama campaign will have to respond.
“Inevitably that means it will be mean and nasty,” Mr. Sabato said. “The Texas and Ohio campaign for about the thousandth time proved that negative attacks work.”
Michael Colleran, president and general manager of CBS’ KYW-TV and WPSG-TV in Philadelphia, said he is pleased not only because the race will make the state “a busy place for the next seven weeks,” but because it focuses attention on the state.
“The eyes of the world will be upon us and everybody welcomes that. It’s undeniable that it will be a boost to the advertising market, but it will give the city and area we live in an awful lot of attention and coverage, and we will have an importance in determining the lay of the land in November,” he said.

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