An Avalanche Is On Its Way — Part 2


(By Bob McCurdy) Last week’s blog focused on the massive concentration of commercials in early and late news that were political, and the enormous number of political ads per commercial break in 2016, which serves as a forewarning of the 2020 political ad avalanche and mudslinging that is on its way. If the relationship between Trump and Pelosi on display at the SOTU address earlier this week is any indication of what’s in store, buckle your seat belts.

This week’s blog will expand the number of markets analyzed, again focusing on the 84 days prior to the 2016 election, but quantify the number of political commercials the TV viewer who tuned to early and late news, and other “live TV,” daily would have likely viewed. Again much thanks to our friends at Media Monitors for supplying the data.

The chart below approximates the number of political ads an early and late news viewer to either ABC, CBS, or NBC would have viewed.

To be read: The Charlotte resident who viewed both early and late news on ABC, CBS, or NBC for the 84 days prior to the 2016 election would have been likely exposed to 1,227 political commercials.

Let’s now say that the concentration of political commercials in television news programming is twice that of other programming in both network TV and cable.  Doing the appropriate math and using Nielsen’s 2016 “live TV” viewing stat of 4 hours of viewing daily (Nielsen Total Audience Report Q2 2016-4:09), the following projects the number of political commercials the average TV viewer would have likely been exposed to in the 84 days preceding the 2016 election.

To be read: The average Charlotte resident who watched early and late news on ABC, CBS, or NBC 84 days prior to the 2016 election and viewed another 2.5 hours of “live TV” daily, would have been likely exposed to 2,250 political commercials or about 27 per day. In Vegas, it would have been a mind-numbing 45 per day.

Note these figures don’t take into consideration the additional political commercials viewers would have been exposed to as they channel surfed, fleeing political commercials on one channel and landing on another also airing a political ad. Keep in mind that these figures represent only 84 days prior to the 2016 election and not the other 7.5 months prior to 8/17/2016 and the computation only included “live TV” and not daily DVR/time-shifted viewing (:30).

Negative political attack ads will cause considerable tune-out, both physical and mental. Bumping and increased rates will also become an issue due to the Super PACS. Check out these recent headlines: “Bloomberg’s Spending Is Pushing TV Advertising Prices Higher for Everyone Else,” “Bloomberg Plans to Double Ad Spending After Iowa Caucus Problem,” and this January quote:

“I think we might have been one of the first campaigns to experience the ‘Bloomberg Effect’ on prices, but we certainly won’t be the last,” Eric Jaye, a California-based media buyer who purchased ads for Sylvester Turner, the just re-elected Democratic mayor of Houston.

Here’s the reality:

Most commercials follow other commercials in a break so it is to an advertiser’s benefit to have the preceding spots be positive and not polarizing. It is safe to say most would not describe political commercials this way. From the Journal of Advertising’s Fall 2001 issue: “Stay Tuned, We’ll Be Right Back After These Messages,” authors Bob Fennis and Arnold Bakker concluded:

— Irritation evoked by disliked commercials and exposure to too many commercials can result in decreased persuasion for an unrelated brand.

— The negative mood caused by the high density of their preceding commercials or by their irritating content carries over to a subsequently presented, neutrally rated commercials, and, presumably, through a process of assimilation, negatively affects evaluative judgments with regard to both the brand and the ad.

And they concluded this in 2001!

Instead of locusts swarming our neighborhoods, political ads swarm our TV screens every couple of years with similar annoying results. Annoyance is not good as it leads to avoidance. If you are a local television advertiser in 2020 do you want your commercial surrounded by literally thousands of negative political ads on TV?

What about radio? Media Monitors analyzed the same markets over the same period of time and found political ads represented only 3.4% of all radio ads (below). This versus 39% for television. The percentage of political ads on TV is at least tenfold that of radio.

For the general market advertiser, radio is a great “refuge” from TV political negativity and noise. Not only is it hard to get on local TV, the advertising environment is toxic and negative, infecting the entire commercial break. For political campaigns who want to stand out, radio is a massive source of registered voters.

Many of us wish it weren’t so, but political ads are not governed by the same standards as general product advertising, resulting in political mudslinging that has gotten progressively worse. Not an ideal environment for a general market advertiser to tout their business and products. Those who want their commercial messaging to air in a more positive, less polarizing environment should think radio.

Bob McCurdy is the Vice President of Sales for The Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]


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