In this presidential election year, CNN is reaping ad dollars from candidates and from sponsors buying special packages on the network's multiplatform election coverage. Greg D'Alba, executive vice president and chief operating officer for CNN Ad Sales, expects spending from the presidential candidates to step up, now that voters in both parties essentially have chosen their candidates. Multichannel News reporter Linda Moss spoke to D'Alba last week about CNN's political-ad outlook. An edited transcript follows:
MCN: When I'm talking about political advertising, I'm talking about Sen. John McCain and Sen. Hillary Clinton. But you're talking about advertisers who just want to buy time during your election coverage?
Greg D'Alba: There are two separate markets here. Our sponsored advertisers — and I'll give you a handful of them right now, Hyundai, Cisco, AT&T, Exxon, AARP, Sharp [Electronic], the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the Society for Human Resource Management — they buy very specific election coverage as it pertains to what we do with our on-air programming: our primary, our debate, any trail-related coverage. They are sponsors of up through the conventions and into Election Night.
We have nine full sponsors now, and we're going to have about five more scatter sponsors coming in over the next three months. So in total it will be 14.
The flip side of the revenue generation is just our advocacy political advertisers that want to air on CNN on all dayparts at all times. Now that we have defined candidates, [Sen. Barack] Obama and McCain are spending as of this week.
MCN: They haven't spent previously?
GD:Obama has been, and McCain jumped in this week. Obama spent early on, in a very big way, which is really interesting. When Obama was on the air with us, which was during the early primaries, he spent a good amount of money during a three-week period, during which that three-week period our audiences were record-breaking in terms of 18-to-34, 18-to-49, Hispanic viewers and African-American viewers. That's when he was on our air, and that's when we had this changing face of America tuning in to CNN.
MCN: For the candidates, can you talk about how you expect this year to shape up versus the presidential election four years ago?
GD: Candidates traditionally reserve national advertising for later in the election cycle, which is closer to conventions. We saw that [George W.] Bush and [John] Kerry four years ago started spending a little bit earlier, and the fact that Obama came on in February [this year] earlier was unexpected, but certainly helped him. So we're expecting now a consistent trend of earlier advertising.
And the fact that McCain has a [ad] campaign that went on [last week], we anticipate that McCain and Obama will compete across the board up to Election Night. Now we're going to see both campaigns fairly aggressive.
MCN: For the full year, do you expect political advertising to be better than 2004?
GD: Better. We're growing our revenue over more platforms in more ways.
I always say that digital media is the tail that has wagged the dog, and it's given us an incredible amount of relevancy today, both for the politicians and for advertisers seeking new audiences and valuable audiences.
You're dealing with two really sophisticated campaign teams, when it comes to media. Both McCain and Obama are surrounded by really strong media people. They understand the value of integration and technology and reaching new consumers.