If You Advertise There, They Will Watch

Posted June 11, 2008 at 5:11pm

There has been a significant increase in the amount of political ads running on cable television this year as opposed to the previous presidential election year, according to a new study commissioned by National Cable Communications, a cable-television ad sales agency jointly owned by Comcast, Time Warner and Cox Communications.

[IMGCAP(1)]Political consultants and candidates are always looking to get the biggest bang for their television advertising buck, and NCC Vice President of Political Strategy Chuck Cowdrey is scheduled today to make the case at a Washington, D.C., seminar sponsored by Politics magazine that cable, not broadcast, is the most effective way to reach voters.

NCC believes the findings of a study it commissioned make the case quite clearly.

“We wanted to better understand cable’s role in micro-targeting, and this paper demonstrates that cable is playing a major role in reaching voters effectively in the 2008 elections,” said Tim Kay, NCC’s director of political strategy.

Among the study’s findings were that the use of spot cable advertising in this year’s presidential primaries increased 800 percent from 2004, particularly in the states that were battlegrounds in both the Democratic and Republican contests.

Even though there were open primaries on both sides, NCC believes this large increase is noteworthy and proves that viewership is trending away from broadcast stations and toward cable.

During the first six months of 2004, more than 60,500 political ads ran on approximately 15 cable networks. During the first six months of this year, more than 464,500 political spots ran on 35 cable networks.

Among the NCC study’s key findings:

• Viewership is shifting from broadcast to cable. Since 2002, more households on average watch cable than broadcast. Voters age 35 and older in particular have been watching less and less broadcast news programs, replacing that viewing time with cable television.

• Cable offers more precise targeting. When advertising on cable, a campaign can target voters geographically within a larger media market. Voters can be targeted along demographic lines more easily when a campaign chooses to advertise on niche networks that cater to a particular demographic.

• Cable also allows for more precise advertising buys in regions of the country without their own media market. For example, New Hampshire does not have its own media market, but is generally served by Boston.

In the period leading up to the New Hampshire presidential primary, from Jan. 1 to Jan. 8, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) aired 83 percent of her presidential campaign ads on cable, and she aired 17 percent on broadcast. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) aired 87 percent of his ads on cable and 13 percent on broadcast.

While the cable ads were targeted only at New Hampshire residents, the broadcast ads were mostly viewed by non-Granite State residents — for those spots that ran on Boston broadcast stations, 82 percent of the viewers could not vote in the New Hampshire primaries.

• The increasing number of cable networks means there is plenty of airtime available to purchase ads. This is important in the heat of a fall campaign, when television advertising space can get scarce.

R.C. You Later. Six months after moving from Washington, D.C., to Oregon to serve as communications director for the re-election bid of Sen. Gordon Smith (R), R.C. Hammond has quietly departed to pursue opportunities in the private sector, according to Smith’s campaign.

Replacing Hammond this week was Smith’s press secretary from his Capitol Hill Senate office, Lindsay Gilbride. Gilbride served under Hammond before he left his position as Smith’s Senate communications director and moved over to the campaign.

Before joining Smith’s office, Gilbride worked for then-Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.) while also working on the then- Congressman’s losing 2006 re-election bid.

Down on Main Street. David Thomas has been hired as executive director of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group that works to elect moderate Republicans.

Thomas comes to the RMSP from Rep. Tom Davis’ (Va.) office, where he served as chief of staff. Davis is retiring this year.

“David brings a wealth of valuable hands-on experience to the organization,” said Charles Bass, the former New Hampshire Congressman who is now president and CEO of the RMSP.

Before joining Davis’ Congressional office, Thomas served as associate political director for the Office of Political Affairs in the Bush White House, overseeing the West. Before that, Thomas was Davis’ campaign manager and district director.

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