Cable will tout its flexibility and geo-demographic
targetability via interconnects and regional-news networks at its political advertising
workshop in Washington, D.C., Tuesday (Feb. 24).
The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau will try to sell
consultants and ad agencies for political candidates, as well as communications
specialists and advocacy-group executives, on the rewards of buying time on cable.
Cable operators expressed some cautious optimism about
their political ad fortunes in this congressional- and gubernatorial-election year.
'Political is going to be huge,' predicted Kevin
Dowell, group ad director at Jones Intercable Inc. in Chicago.
At the New York Interconnect, Eglon Simons, vice president
and general manager, expected 'some activity around the senatorial race,' with
Geraldine Ferraro and others facing a Democratic primary battle before the victor takes on
Republican incumbent Al D'Amato. But he felt that most of the political action will
be at the system level, rather than the interconnect level.
Ed Dunbar, MediaOne's vice president of ad sales, was
more cautious. 'It's way too early' to gauge how much 'lift' will
come from political, he said, although he's hopeful that it will be 'a large
While presidential elections are generally the strongest
for cable, the CAB said so-called off-year elections can be solid, as well.
Michael Bienstock, director of national spot sales for the
CAB, who's overseeing the workshop, said the spot portion of cable's political
spending has grown, from between 2 percent and 3 percent in 1995 to 8.5 percent in 1996,
driven largely by fourth-quarter political spending. Data for 1997 have not yet been
Bienstock said it is virtually impossible to come up with a
reliable dollar estimate for political in 1998.
Two of cable's strongest selling points for
politicians, Bienstock said, are fast turnaround for commercials (made possible by digital
ad insertion) and greater targeting of politically involved audiences via upscale basic
networks and regional-news networks.
In a mailing, the CAB cited Mediamark Research Inc. data
indicating, for example, that cable subscribers are more likely to vote and to be involved
in local civic issues and political campaigning than noncable viewers.
There are more insertable opportunities than ever on
networks with demographics that are attractive to candidates, meaning that there's
less chance of wasting money, he added.
One network, A&E Network, distributed 5,000 election
brochures in 1996 to 600 systems that used them to canvass for local business. And A&E
is planning to do so again this year. The idea is to supply 'street-ready, evergreen
materials' that position cable in general, and A&E in particular, as 'prime
candidates' for political dollars, said Mark Mersky, the network's vice
president of local sales. Mersky added that A&E didn't track how much local
revenue the brochure helped to bring in.
Jeff Greenfield, Cable News Network's political and
media commentator, will open the workshop, followed by John Sawhill, executive vice
president and CEO at rep firm National Cable Communications, and Deborah Cuffaro, senior
vice president at rep firm Cable Networks Inc., offering a brief overview.