The Obama and Romney campaigns “are spending incredible amounts of money to reach an incredibly small amount of people,” says Kantar’s Kenneth Goldstein.
While TV stations around the country continue to bank on political ad money this year, a big portion of the $3.3 billion in advertising dollars expected to be spent on this year’s presidential campaign is targeting fewer than 1 million undecided voters.
“Local television is a way to get to people who are not necessarily looking to be exposed to politics,” says Kenneth Goldstein, president of Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. Goldstein discussed this year’s political advertising Wednesday at the TVB Forward conference in New York.
The President Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns “are spending incredible amounts of money to reach an incredibly small amount of people,” Goldstein says.
In using TV ads, the campaigns are trying to reach the “700,000 to 800,000 voters in the entire country that are persuadable,” Goldstein says. Those voters are concentrated in nine states.
Even after the 2008 campaign season, and the buzz about the power of the Internet that accompanied it, broadcast television is still considered the premiere means of reaching voters, he says. About 75% of campaign money raised is spent on advertising. About 56% of that money goes to local television. About 15% is spent on both cable and mail, and about 6% is spent on Internet advertising. Network television and newspapers each get just about 2% of that money, Goldstein says.
“Local TV is keeping its share of what’s being spent and there is an increase in the size of the pie,” Goldstein says.
Presidential campaign ad spending, about 40% of the expected total, already is “significantly ahead” of where it was at this time in the 2008 election, he says. And heavy advertising for contested House and Senate races is still to come.
This campaign season also has seen a rise in the number of groups buying political ads, says Kantar CMAG VP Elizabeth Wilner. “The change in the proportion of advertising controlled by and paid for by groups instead of candidates has implications. The headaches come from groups creating instability,” she says.
That “instability” stems from the ways such groups — many of which are not Super PACS — operate, moving into states at full-throttle only to leave just as quickly, she says. “They are not bound to advertising anything anywhere.”
Selling heavily to groups supporting a candidate also raises the possibility that the opposing campaign will invoke the law mandating that they get equal airtime. That could create inventory problems for stations, which would be forced to make hard decisions about their dealings with advertisers, she says.
During past elections, stations have faced dilemmas when it comes to questions of, say, replacing a loyal local advertiser’s ad or one purchased by an election season group willing to pay a higher price.
“When it comes time to bump somebody, who are you going to bump?” she asks.