Get Closer to Your Voters
By Ondine Fortune
In today’s political environment,
it is becoming increasingly more difficult to reach
Just a decade ago, a candidate could
rely on the Big 3 networks, a few radio spots and
the local newspaper to deliver almost the entire electorate.
However, given the explosion of new media, today’s
political campaigns must rely more and more on cable
programming and its branded website companions as
sources to reach voters.
Media planning and buying, once the
unwanted stepchild of the political process is now
crucial to ensuring a targeted and more importantly
an efficient use of your campaign dollars. With more
choices and opportunities to reach voters comes more
risk that one can waste away precious dollars with
the wrong message at the wrong time to the wrong audience.
Media planning and buying,
once the unwanted stepchild of the political
process is now crucial to ensuring a targeted
and more importantly an efficient use of your
Let’s take a closer look at
Over the past decade, we have seen
a rapid erosion of viewers from broadcast television
to cable. The share of viewing on broadcast has declined
from 69% in 1991 to 51% in 2007 while the share of
viewing on cable has increased from 22% to 38% respectively.
Additionally, the 14-week Writer’s Guild of
America (WGA) strike accelerated broadcast erosion
with cable now owning higher aggregate program ratings
in every major demographic post strike. (Source:
Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau ’07 Midterm
The explosion of original cable programming
now offers vehicles that draw sizable audiences, with
real and sustainable ratings. These ratings have only
continued to increase, 24% since 2001 where broadcast
has decreased 16%. Very few took note that TNT’s
original series “The Closer” pulled a
9.1 national rating (same as Law & Order in its
Wednesday time slot on NBC) in their season premier.
That Bravo’s Project Runway season finale was
the highest rated show for the week on cable; or that
a niche network like History is reaching 2.6 million
adult 25-54 impressions on Monday nights! Not to mention
that original shows on cable networks took home numerous
Emmy Awards and 10 of 11 categories at the Golden
Globes including best series (AMC’s Mad Men),
best actor (Jon Hamm, Mad Men) and best actress (Glenn
Close, Damages, FX) in 2007. These are programs that
viewers are passionate about and that reach voters
who are watching everyday.
Cable networks are also constantly
reinventing themselves, offering unique shows that
are willing to target all demographics with its shorter
seasons. Cable nets continue to offer hit show after
hit show and there is something for everyone. This
while network TV continues to use a strategy of targeting
the masses by attempting to copy one network’s
success with its own replica of that hit show’s
premise. Broadcast does reach the masses, however
cable strength is its targetability. When balanced
smartly with other media a candidate can reach everyone
they need to and not leave anyone outside the voting
Although political advertisers have
been slow to the cable trough, the audience move to
cable has not been missed by the commercial advertiser.
National and local advertisers have made dramatic
shifts in their advertising budgets from traditional
broadcast to ad-supported cable. Major advertisers
like Verizon (up 36%) and Sprint (up 46%) have shifted
their dollars to the highly targeted cable programming.
In fact, on average 65% of the gross ratings points
purchased by most top-200 advertisers are on cable.
For years, political advertisers
have understood the value of CNN and Fox News. The
research has steadily shown that these networks are
where voters get informed and are a more trusted resource
than local news.
However, where campaigns have missed
the boat has been with the large audiences and efficient
buys on the “entertainment” networks.
We all know Republicans are more likely to view Fox
News, but national Nielsen research shows they are
also watching ESPN, The Golf Channel, The Hallmark
Channel, History, HGTV and The Travel Channel among
others. Sure, Democrats are more likely to view CNN
and MSNBC, but they are also watching Bravo, Style
Network, E! Entertainment, A&E & AMC among
others. When buying network television would you ONLY
buy one network? Or only news? Never. So why would
you on cable?
Political consultants use to use
the old excuse of the limits of cable, traffic changes
were not quick enough, dayparts too broad, not enough
time offered, but those days are gone. The majority
of markets can change copy within 24-hours, and all
dayparts are being offered with more inventory then
ever. There are simply no more rational excuses for
not allowing cable to carry the heavy water for your
Although viewing habits vary from
state-to-state and market-by-market, fortunately,
there is research available. Be sure your team has
a media buyer that knows how to get their hands on
the correct data and that they understand how to use
it. It could be the difference between winning and
losing your campaign.
The effective use of targeted cable
is often credit for the re-election of George Bush.
The Bush campaign used cable to communicate to certain
demographics and leverage key message points in the
appropriate programming environment. Industry research
shows that expanding the traditional media plan away
from solely network TV and a few cable news shows
to a broad platform of seventeen different cable networks
will dramatically increase your reach and frequency
and the efficiency of your media plan.
“As a longtime political strategist, I know
it is imperative to manage a campaign’s ad dollars
in the most targeted and effective way possible.
Local, regional and/or national cable simply must
be in the mix. But a campaign needs to be smart about
how you integrate cable into the overall media buy,”
said Garry South, Campaign Manager for Governor Gray
Davis. “In Gov. Gray Davis’s
challenging 2006 re-election, we used local cable’s
unique ability to micro-target vastly different constituencies
with unique messages. For example, we were the first
statewide campaign in California history to run spots
in the basic Asian languages—Mandarin,
Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Tagalong—via
cable. Our cable specialist helped us utilize
individual cable systems and the market interconnects
available to give the campaign a cost-effective and
highly targeted cable strategy that reached the most
diverse electorate of any state in America.
Any campaign that does not have a smart cable plan
in the mix is losing out—and may well lose altogether,”
Throughout history, politicians have
gone where the voters were -- whether it was in town
halls, coast-to-coast train rides or simply on foot.
Today your voters are watching cable shows.
Words to the wise -- If you
want to win…join your voters and take a hard
look at your cable plans.
Winning Campaigns 2008
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