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It’s a Political TV Ad Season Like No Other: Are We Ready?

September 25th, 2018   ||    by Rick Howe

In 1995, then Speaker of the House Thomas P. O’Neill (aka “Tip” O’Neill) published “All Politics is Local – and Other Rules of the Game.

And while the political establishment has certainly internalized and adopted Tip’s wisdom, we may not have fully realized the opportunity for local television political advertising.

Before we dig into that, with the help of Marci Ryvicker, Wall Street analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, there are a couple Tip O’Neill “Rules of the Game” that are just too delicious to miss according to the book review in Publisher’s Weekly:

  • No contribution is too small
  • Never get introduced at a sporting event; only boos will ensue (I love that one!)
  • To be a successful public speaker, memorize poetry
  • Avoid bunk
  • Remember names
  • Tip well

In the 8/9/2018 Edition of Spots n Dots (, Marci Ryvicker predicted that “total political ad spending for the 2017-2018 cycle will be up 15 percent (from the 2014 midterms) to $4.4 billion, with $2.4 billion (54%) attributable to local TV.”  Part of that increase, according to the article, is that “there are 61 ‘hot’ races for seats in the House of Representatives this year, compared to only 39 in 2014.”

And now there is every indication that since this August review, spending has accelerated at all levels, both national and local. At this writing, we are seeing unprecedented television ads both in support of and against a nominee for the US Supreme Court. And while the candidates for the Senate (35 seats in play) and the House of Representatives (435 seats in play), and their respective parties, vie for control of the post-midterm Congress, there is a difficult political calculus at play.

Coming into the 2018 midterms, it was obvious that a candidate’s positions on the current administration could make or break their re-election prospects. Now we see the same risks (and opportunities) are associated with a Supreme Court nominee.

While social media can deliver nearly instantaneous communication, nothing beats a television spot to handle a message that is complex, nuanced and emotional.

[Doctor’s note: Twitter isn’t known for nuance]

In the roughly 40 days before these elections, local television stations will be confronted with advertising volume, messaging and proven instant delivery like never before. These are opportunities delivered to local broadcast television on a silver platter.

Are we ready?

I intend to find out at the TVB Forward conference at Chelsea Piers (Pier Sixty) in New York City on 9/27/2018. TVB’s event press release gives us a picture:

“While local broadcast television remains the dominant media platform, it continues to adapt to viewers’ changing content engagement preferences while meeting advertisers’ demands for measurable returns on their media investments. The annual TVB Forward conference is the landmark event for in-depth discourse on the combined power of traditional local television and digital media, as well as the ongoing collaboration between broadcasters, media agencies and platform providers to develop and implement new technologies that will create a more efficient marketplace for advertising transactions. Forward 2018 will further our thought leadership position for the next generation of media distribution, while facilitating the future growth and innovation of our members and partners across the local broadcast television industry.”

Stay tuned for more…

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