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TV campaigns for political ad dollars

News, 11 December 2015

NEW YORK: Local US TV stations, concerned at the threat posed to their advertising dollars by digital groups in an election year, have launched a campaign urging candidates to spend their budgets on television.

"The real impetus is to set the record straight with the facts: television still wins elections," declared Steve Lanzano, president of the Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB), which represents around 700 local stations as well as broadcast groups.

The Financial Times reported that a commercial, due to run this weekend on local channels in several cities, claims Americans have more than five conversations about politics each week and that most of their political information comes from broadcast TV.

Lanzano also pointed out that the over-35s are the demographic most likely to go out and vote. "We reach over 80% of them every single day," he said.

Spending in US presidential elections gets bigger with every campaign: Kantar Media has estimated the 2016 cycle will see a 16% increase on TV spending to $4.4bn, while Borrell Associates has projected digital spending will pass $1bn, compared to just $159m four years earlier.

Local TV will be aiming to get some of the latter spending as well. "We have terrific digital assets ourselves," Lanzano said. "Digital isn't an 'or'. It's an 'and'. But first you need to do TV right."

That may be true when the main battle begins, but in the nomination skirmishes the current leader in the Republican field has spent just $216,000 on TV ads to date – Donald Trump has hardly needed to pay for exposure given the provocative nature of his public statements.

Meanwhile Jeb Bush and his supporting super-PAC have spent some $32.5m on TV, with little effect on opinion polls.

Joel Benenson, one of the architects of Barack Obama's two winning presidential campaigns, explained that one of the difficulties political marketers face is that "you don't have a long period of time like you do in marketing to build up your brand image and reinforce it across many different touchpoints".

"You have to do it in a focused, concentrated period of time, unlike brands," he told Marketing Week.

He also referred to the need for both brands and politicians to uncover "the 'hidden architecture of opinion' ... the underlying attitudes and values that shape the decision frame for any decision that people make".

Data sourced from Financial Times, Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff