Presidential candidates in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries exceeded $10 million in ad spending on spot cable, according to National Cable Communications, which handles political ad sales for Cox Communications, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, among other operators.
That represents 15% of television ad spending for the two contests, according to NCC estimates, said senior vice president Andrew Capone.
The top spenders were the winners: Iowa victors Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the Republican winner, as well as New Hampshire's top Democratic vote-getter, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Capone said. He joked that even long-shot GOP candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) spent money on cable. The spending assessments are based on research from TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG, he noted.
In Iowa alone, $40 million was spent on TV ads this cycle, more than three times the amount spent in the state in the last presidential race in 2004, according to CNN. The cable channel reported that Obama spent $9 million on television in Iowa, followed by Clinton, who spent $7.2 million; and former Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, who spent nearly $7 million.
Capone said he's especially pleased that the campaigns are using NCC research to make “broad and deep” buys. Candidates are buying across multiple networks, using cable to target specific groups with specific messages.
Steve Litwer, group vice president of ad sales at Mediacom Communications's OnMedia unit, said the contested races in both parties in Iowa translated into a six-fold increase in spending on political ads on cable on his company's systems in that state compared with 2004.
“The environment's changed” since four years ago, he said. In 2003, George Bush was running as an incumbent, unchallenged in the caucuses. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts won the Democratic caucus; then-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) finished second. That cycle, spending ahead of the caucuses didn't heat up until December 2003; this cycle, candidate ads began popping up as early as April.
Litwer credited NCC with helping to attract more spot cable buys with a concerted sales effort among media buyers in Washington D.C.