Thanks largely to mid-term elections, political ad revenue is expected to reach $8.3bln this year, and cable and digital advertising are the only ad platforms projected to gain share, according to a recent study by Borrell Associates. “Our projection of $600-$800mln for all national and local cable advertising is very real,” said Tim Kay, dir of political advertising at NCC Media, owned by Comcast, Cox and Time Warner Cable. Advertisers are using more nets and looking at more sports and fixed targeted programming, he said.
In addition, the integration of set-top box data and voter file targeting is increasing cable’s market share. The company has booked some 5mln ad spots (with some pre-booked for the fall), he noted. Some of the traditional nets came out on top, including Fox News, CNN, ESPN and USA. “What is interesting is that we are seeing networks like Food, HGTV, TV Land, Hallmark and FX all coming into the top 15 network usage,” Kay said. More now recognize that the average voter isn’t just consuming news from traditional broadcast choices but getting it from other areas. and that more and more voters watch lifestyle/entertainment programming, which has a large concentration within cable, he said. Coming out of the 2012 election cycle, “campaigns realized that the biggest line item of the budget—television—had the least accountability,” he said. All communications were judged on how they reached an individual voter, and this couldn’t be done until the integration of set top box data. “It is moving campaigns away from reaching Gross Rating Points goals but focusing on building impressions against a persuadable universe,” Kay said. It’s also expanding the number of nets being used and increasing fixed programming. “Campaigns are buying the Interconnects and then buying individual cable systems to ‘heavy up’ in areas of high voter concentration,” he said.
Dan Sinagoga, vp of political sales at Comcast, estimated that cable will take close to 30% of the total political ad share and even more so in 2016. Meanwhile, millennials have always been the hardest group to reach and turn out to vote, Joan Gillman, evp/COO of Time Warner Cable Media, told us. “They are critical to a race and as a result, one of the important target audiences.” College sports on cable is key to reaching this group, she said, noting campaigns are “reinforcing their messages across both our multiple screen products and also bring grassroots and social into the mix.” Kay is on the same page when it comes to online video advertising. “Online is being integrated to create a media mix because it is about video and reaching impressions against your target. The old way was to look at one medium and dominate it, and once you did that you could move to another. Now it is about finding a mix because voters are consuming video across multiple screens. This includes linear, online and dynamic VOD ad insertion.” In terms of states that will potentially generate the most political ad dollars during mid-term, Sinagoga said states with competitive Gubernatorial (PA, IL, CT and FL) and US Senate races (NC, MI, IA and NH), will be higher in total ad dollars spent, while Kay believed this election cycle is all about the Senate. While TWC Media has activity in every state, TX was strong for the primary, Gillman said. “In the summer, we are seeing hotly contested races in North Carolina, Kentucky and Texas,” she said. “The campaigns in these states are active now. The campaigns active now have an opportunity to shape the message and awareness before message fatigue sets in. In prior cycles, the campaigns active in this window had an edge going into the fall.”