Candidates Spend Big for Small Audiences

Candidates Spend Big for Small Audiences

Politicians are increasingly voting for cable networks to get their political ads out to the voting public.

Once the domain of local broadcast stations, cable networks are now integral parts of a candidate’s overall political ad-buy strategy.

And while most of the ad action is from cable operators using local avail time, the industry overall is grabbing a bigger piece of the political ad-dollar pie.

Borrell Associates estimates that $938 million will be spent for cablenetwork ads this year, a 100% increase from the $468 million that was generated in the 2008 presidential campaign. That’s nearly 10% of all political ad spending, compared to only 6.7% just a year ago.

The presidential candidates in particular have concentrated much of their advertising on a handful of swing states around the country with an emphasis on key demographics such as young voters, minorities and women. Cable — with its ability to hone in on select viewers with niche programming networks — offers an alluring platform by which to target key viewers, said cable-network executives.

“There is a lot more activity than there’s been before and we’re in contact with both campaigns multiple times a week,” Jeff Lucas, head of sales for the Viacom Media Networks/Music and Entertainment Group, said. “When you think about, it these two gentlemen have grown up within the MTV generation and they know the power of the brands.”

MTV in particular has seen a “tripledigit” increase in political ad revenue this year compared to 2008, Lucas said, as politicians look to court young, Millennial viewers. Lucas said that MTV reaches 45 million Millennial viewers — including a significant number of African-American and Hispanics in the 12-to-32-year-old age demo.

“It’s an amazing growth rate versus the last election,” he said. “They know where the audience is — not just MTV, but all across the MTVN networks, which they offer every demo from diapers to diapers with the millennial [demographic] being most popular.”

Other networks, while less forthcoming with their political ad numbers, say that they’ve seen a small uptick in ad spending, although most executives say that spending is on the local level through cable avails sold by cable operators.

Niche networks Lifetime and TV One reported little to no increase in political advertising activity.