Primary Spending Reaches New Areas

May 4, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The Democratic presidential candidates and their supporters are buying more television advertising in Indiana and North Carolina ahead of Tuesday’s primary, pleasing stations in both states.
The spending spree on behalf of rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton also is helping TV stations in Louisville, Ky., which reaches southern Indiana. Chicago broadcast stations, which reach northern Indiana, are being left behind in favor of local cable purchases.
Representatives of Chicago broadcasters and Comcast Spotlight said that although Indiana households represent nearly 9% of Nielsen’s Chicago Designated Market Area and northern Indiana voters watch Chicago stations, the campaigns have elected to hone in on voters there through local cable rather than paying higher prices to reach Illinois voters they don’t need.
“We are getting 100% shares in our Indiana zones that fall in the Illinois footprint,” said Dana Runnells, a Comcast Spotlight spokesman. Comcast Spotlight sells the two minutes per hour on cable that is provided to cable operators.
Louisville stations, whose market includes a higher portion of homes in Indiana, are attracting heavy advertising for the race.
No Chicago broadcasters reached would comment on the record. Several said they hadn’t really expected an advertising windfall.
Indiana and North Carolina broadcasters said last week that as poll numbers suggest the possibility of a close race in both states, spending has grown. Both the campaigns and outsiders, including a union favoring Sen. Obama and a group favoring Ms. Clinton, have started spending.
“This is completely unexpected,” said Tim McNamara, director of sales for Tribune Co.’s Indianapolis stations, Fox affiliate WXIN-TV and CW affiliate WTTV-TV.
With strong state races and the presidential race, Mr. McNamara said, political advertising is approaching 40% of advertising on local newscasts and could reach 50% by today.
The political opponents are making purchases for ad slots throughout the day. While the Clinton campaign is doing conventional buys, targeting women and older voters, the Obama campaign is targeting younger voters and buying time on Fox’s “American Idol” and “The Simpsons,” Mr. McNamara said.
The Tribune sales director said that in his 20 years handling political ads, it’s the first time he’s seen a candidate target the younger demographic.
The level of spending is double what it was a week ago, he said.
In North Carolina, Hank Price, GM of Hearst-Argyle’s NBC-affiliated WXII-TV in Winston-Salem, said the advertising was unexpected, helping to overcome any ad sales declines from the weakening economy.
“In our particular case, we are not aware of any other time where we had presidential money. It’s terrific,” Mr. Price said. “Given what has happened in the Democratic primary, we were not surprised. We started expecting it six weeks ago, but three months ago, if someone had told us, we would have been shocked.”
Advertising executives who live in Indiana and North Carolina say the advertising strategies illustrate the campaigns’ differing approaches.
Jeremy Holden, a self-described political junkie who is director of account planning for McKinney, in Durham, N.C., said the Clinton campaign-ad plan seem to be “throw it against the wall and see what sticks. There is more consistency from the Obama campaign … more true to the brand.”

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