Cable Technology Feature Article
In a Tough Midterm Election Year, Political Advertising Spirals Out of Control
By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor
As we as a nation hurtle headlong into the midterm elections and a rash of high-profile gubernatorial races (Wendy Davis, anyone?), there has been a dramatic increase in political ad spending, driven by factors both cultural and technological, including the impact of the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
“While it is still too close to call whether or not Republicans will re-gain the U.S. Senate, thereby controlling both Houses of Congress, the fierce battle for the Senate has put an exclamation point on U.S. political spending,” noted ad platform provider Viamedia TV, in a research blog. “But maybe 2014 is not just another midterm election – certainly not from an advertising perspective.”
In the 35 Viamedia markets that exhibit political ad spending in both years, there has been an overall 54 percent growth in total advertising from 2010 to 2014. But the political advertising category alone has jumped 132.1 percent.
“In other words, Viamedia political ad spending has increased at a rate more than double company-wide ad revenue growth,” the company said.
This past August, the percentage of political advertising reached 12.2 percent of total Viamedia revenues – 5 percentage points higher than in 2010 (i.e., 7.2 percent). And then in September of this year, political advertising reached a record 20.5 percent—that’s one out of every five dollars in advertising being attributable to political spending. That’s also 7.5 percentage points higher than in 2010.
Viamedia noted that several factors play into this, with more campaign contribution money floating around being a common denominator.
The Supreme Court decision for Citizens United enabled corporations and unions to dramatically increase their political spending; while there has also been a significant growth for super PACs, which can raise money from individuals to formal organizations, with no limit on the size of donations. A range of other fundraising groups have also become more active on the scene, including the Republican Governors Association, the Democratic Governors Association, the National Republican Senatorial Committee) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Viamedia also noted that the 2012 Obama Presidential campaign utilized Rentrak (News - Alert) data to match cable networks with specific categories of voters. And that has led to a “revolution of political advertising and geographically targeting voters,” the firm said.
And while overall political advertising has spiked, that 132 percent increase is nothing compared to what’s happening in specific market races.
“Our Charlotte market, for example, is in the swing-state of North Carolina where a hotly contested Senate race is taking place between the Democratic incumbent, Kay Hagan, and her Republican challenger, Thom Tillis (currently a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives and Speaker of the House),” the company said. “Through the month of July, Charlotte is up a dramatic +3,889 percent vs 2010 political spending levels.”
Viamedia has a few interesting tidbits when it came to cable network too. This year, 16 cable networks account for 92 percent of total political ad revenues, with FOX News Channel capturing the highest share (23.7 percent).
In terms of politics commanding a share of overall ad spending, FOX News Channel is in a virtual tie with MSNBC – both with indices slightly over 300. In other words, both cable networks attracted political advertising shares at a rate three times higher than their ability to attract advertising in general.
Other hot cable placements include CNN, Hallmark and HGTV, followed by the History Channel, Lifetime, the Food Network and USA.
Edited by Maurice Nagle