Ad Vantage The cable industry should do very well this fall political season in the advertising arena. Yes, it’s that time again, when politicians and interest groups spend absurd amounts of money on television advertising in an effort to win elections—usually by smearing opponents. It’s a sad commentary that the political consulting community’s "conventional wisdom" is that negative ads work. I don’t really know if they do, but that’s certainly the current belief. What a shame. We have to put up with all that garbage. The situation is unlikely to change any time soon. "Swift boating" will win out over serious discussion of the issues every time, and there is more and more money in the pot for candidates of all stripes to use to buy time and send out their messages, whatever they are. The numbers are compelling, especially this year. We haven’t even started the "traditional" political advertising season, which usually starts after Labor Day, and already the Campaign Media Analysis Group reports that candidates have spent more than $311 million on local TV political advertising! That’s more than 3 times what was spent at this point in 2002 and up 45% from 2004. The national number, including ballot initiatives, issue ads and all the rest is a staggering $700 million! And this is just the beginning. The real spitting matches will begin in September and October, leading up to the elections in November. As a television viewer, I hate all this. Thankfully, there’s HBO, Showtime, VOD, etc., to escape. As someone concerned about our political system and how it is working (or not working), I find it all depressing at best. But as a "cable guy"… hey, what an opportunity! An article in the Wall Street Journal on Monday pointed out the good news: more political campaigns are using cable advertising instead of local broadcast television advertising because campaigns can target the cable audience more precisely. In other words, we’re a better buy. Habits, however, change slowly. The article also points out that even though the campaign ad buyers are recognizing that cable is more precise way to use their advertising dollars, they still will spend about 85% of their money on local broadcast television ads! Now this doesn’t make much sense to me, but political campaigns rarely make much sense, so I shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, look at the brilliance the government has shown with its purchasing practices in Iraq or in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, and you will get some sense of how these folks spend money! So it’s up to us to show them that they ought to spend campaign advertising money wisely by buying more cable ads, which can target where they want their messages to go rather than be wasted on "mass" audiences that have little political cohesion. How do we do that? Well, it seems to me your advertising sales folks and the CableTelevision Advertising Bureau are the experts and should have materials ready to go by now. Check with them. You should also check with your legal folks to make sure you comply with the FCC’s "lowest unit charge" rules and all the rest regarding political advertising. It’s time to take advantage of what we have to offer!

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