BY STEVE RADDOCK If you’re still convinced that cable advertising sales and public affairs don’t mix — like oil and water, Eminem and Liza Minnelli or caviar and Pop-Tarts — it’s time to face reality. Sales and community service have, in fact, become as natural a pairing as Ben & Jerry. Granted, the primary objective of the ad sales department is to generate revenue and build cable’s share of local ad budgets. But cable sales professionals also know that their successes are tied to the socio-economic health of their communities. A healthy community is good for business, and helping to enhance a community’s well-being is good business sense. Toward this end, local cable ad sales teams have been leaders in orchestrating public affairs initiatives and campaigns. They’re in a unique position to rally the resources needed to raise public awareness and public response, and to produce benefits for everyone involved. The way it typically works is cable ad sales will arrange for local businesses (individual or groups) to sponsor a noteworthy public affairs campaign or event, and then highlight these advertisers’ participation in campaign commercials and related promotion. For the community service itself — particularly one with a small or nonexistent promotion budget — this partnership with advertisers provides them with the backing to get their message out to the public with meaningful frequency and visibility. For participating advertisers, it’s an opportunity to build community goodwill and establish a positive association in the minds of consumers when purchasing choices are made. For the ad sales department, marrying local businesses to public service initiatives is a solid strategy for attracting new advertisers to cable, and for building long-term relationships with existing ones. And, for the system operator, it’s a highly tangible way to score points with key decision makers in both the public and private sectors. Over the past decade, local cable advertisers throughout the nation have sponsored thousands of community service campaigns covering virtually every kind of initiative, from health and education to politics and environmental protection. Here’s a sampling: To help improve voter turnout in local elections, Comcast Ad Sales in Salt Lake City put together a public service campaign sponsored by area businesses and featuring Utah’s lieutenant governor. The effort produced a 5% increase in off-year election turnout. Cable One Advertising enlisted local advertisers to underwrite the creation and promotion of a Youthfest fundraiser for Parents and Youth Against Drug Abuse, a public agency in Boise, Idaho, that has a limited budget. Time Warner Cable in Newburgh, N.Y., put together a partnership of county agencies and local businesses to conduct an antismoking campaign that included a contest inviting high school students to submit ideas for commercials. CableRep of Las Vegas created a public service initiative, A Welcome Home, that linked up Wells Fargo, a furniture dealer and a local radio station to spotlight abused or neglected children in the county needing adoption. Chicago’s Marketlink interconnect teamed up with Lifetime Television, the City of Hope and more than 16 local sponsors to increase community awareness of breast cancer and raise funds for research. In Corpus Christi, Texas, the local system created an Academic Express Card Learning Incentive Program awarding books of coupons from participating sponsors to middle school students who made honor roll. A cable-conceived Splash & Ride program in Dubuque, Iowa — sponsored by a local bank — allowed area children to ride city buses for free to and from city pools. In these and thousands of other public service efforts, cable ad sales teams have demonstrated their ability to mobilize the necessary commitments — financial and emotional — to produce effective, cause-related campaigns. Their work in this area will be further strengthened through more strategic alliances with their own systems’ marketing and public affairs departments. Examples of how cable ad sales, marketing and public affairs can successfully collaborate on community service campaigns will be showcased at CTAM’s upcoming “Partnering for Profit” seminar being held Sept. 18 in New York (for more information, visit www.ctam.com). The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau’s annual Cable Advertising Awards program is also a good source for cause-related advertising success stories, as is the Advertising Council’s Community Action Network database. The bottom line is that public affairs initiatives have been an outstanding and long-standing investment of time and energy for local cable ad sales. It’s a partnership that has paid tremendous dividends in enhancing the quality of life while ensuring revenue growth that allows systems to better serve the evolving needs of their constituents. Steve Raddock is VP, communications and production, for the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau. He is also a member of the board of directors for the Cable Television Public Affairs Association.