Already on the Trail for 2010

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For Comcast Spotlight director of political ad sales Dan Singagoa, there is no such thing as an off time for political spending or planning. The 2008 presidential election is only now just winding up and the final numbers aren’t even in, but Singagoa is already hard at work planning for the midterm Congressional elections in 2010. Singagoa is responsible for developing workflow and structure for political ad-sales business throughout Comcast’s four ad-sales divisions, developing a common practice for handling the category. In this role, he oversees the political ad-sales relationship between the company and rep firm National Cable Communications, as well as any other outside sales relationships involving the political sector. He also serves as the company’s liaison between the Comcast corporate government affairs department, the Washington, D.C., ad community and direct national party relations with the Spotlight political sales force. Singagoa spoke with Local Ad Sales contributor K.C. Neel about the latest political season. An edited transcript follows:

Q: Now that the election is over, what will take up your time until the next cycle starts?

A: There is no such thing as a non-political season anymore. We’re already laying the groundwork to make sure our efforts bear fruit in 2010. We will spend quite a bit of time in Washington, D.C., and outside the presidential money we received this year, we’re expecting 2010 to be a strong as 2008, with all the governor and congressional races that will occur. There are also quite a few large mayoral races we are preparing for. But clearly, the business has changed. We used to see this business in four-year increments. That is no longer the case. We have to plan in two-year increments.

Q: What did you do differently this year than in previous election cycles?

A: A lot of the groundwork we laid out for this election started in 2007 and that preparation helped us a lot in 2008. And all that preparation will also help us in 2010 as well. We had a 4% share of political dollars that went to TV in 2004. In 2006, that number jumped to 15%. This year, it was above 18%. To be successful, you have strong relationships with the national agencies, but you also have to be close to the campaigns on a local level so they can explain the landscape correctly to the media buyers. We have positioned ourselves so we can compete. We could keenly align ourselves so we could tell our story at both levels.

Q: Were there any unexpected surprises this year?
A: I would hazard to say we didn’t expect how much money the presidential elections would bring in this year. In 2004, only 1% of the money spent by the presidential candidates was spent on local spot cable. This year, that number grew to 18%.

Q: Do you plan to do anything differently during the next election cycle?

A: Not necessarily. There is still plenty of growth to be had in this category, particularly in long form and the Internet. [President-elect] Barack Obama used some long-form advertising with great success. I think we’ll see more of that. We had a very engaged public during this election and the long-form advertising proved that the how candidates get their messages across is changing. That trend, we believe, will continue.

Q: Did candidates take advantage of your VOD and Internet options?

A: We had myriad success stories with our long-form options. Obama did a seven-minute VOD piece that was quite successful. We see VOD and the Internet as being in the same place as spot cable was in 2004. Campaigns have begun experimenting with these formats, and we think they will use it much more aggressively going forward. We think it may take a cycle or two to really take hold, but it’s the next phase of political advertising. TV will always be the strongest outlet for political advertising. However, campaigns understand they are going to have to broaden their use of media to include VOD and the Internet. They provide the additional exposure candidates need and can’t get with a 30-second spot.

Q: Which was stronger, the primary season or the general election?

A: The primary season was strong, to be sure. But the general election was stronger. Historically, 70% of the political dollars are spent in the last eight to 10 weeks of the election, and this year was no exception. The average buys during the primary ran 15 to 18 networks deep. The average buys during the general election were 20 to 32 networks deep. Political was a hot button everywhere this year. This year we went from eight to 12 battleground states to 18 for Obama and 14 to 16 for McCain. Money was spent in places that hadn’t received attention before. It was just a phenomenal year.

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