Record TV ad spending forecast for '08 election

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NEW YORK -- Even by conservative estimates, the 2008 campaign is on track to become a record-breaking one for ad spending, with the general election still more than a year away.

TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group estimated Thursday that the presidential election alone will see at least $750 million in ad spending. That's up from the $600 million spent in the 2004 campaign -- and this campaign's spending estimate is a conservative one, Evan Tracey, COO of TNS/CMAG, said at the Television Bureau of Advertising's annual fall forecast conference.

Ad spending for all campaigns in 2008 will reach at least $2.6 billion, up substantially from the $2.1 billion spent in the 2006 midterm elections and the $1.6 billion in 2004. Tracey said it could go substantially higher depending on several factors, including how competitive the presidential race becomes and also how many voter referendums are placed on the ballot. Labor unions, corporations and issue groups recently were freed by the U.S. Supreme Court of restrictions from the McCain-Feingold law, which also is likely to have a big impact.

Tracey's forecast plugs in the same amount of spending from these groups as in 2004; he said that it's likely to be even more than that when all is said and done.

"I see fewer reasons to see things trending down," Tracey said.

Also adding to the expected torrid spending will be the prediction that the 2008 House races will be as hard fought as they were in 2006, when voters elected a Democratic majority. The GOP thinks it can turn the tide back in the House.

Presidential campaign spending is coming in strong in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, the early caucus/primary states that also will be joined in January and February by a raft of other states like California, Wyoming, New York, Texas and New Jersey. Already seven presidential candidates and eight interest groups have spent more than $10 million on TV ads, and the pace of spending in the early states has surpassed what Iowa saw in 2004.

A primary beneficiary of an increase in political spending is local broadcast TV, which hopes to offset recent losses in automotive advertising with a strong political season. TVB president Chris Rohrs said local spot TV should be up 5%-6% compared to this year, while national spot TV would be up 14% to 16%. Another driver beyond politics in 2008 will be the Olympics, Rohr said.
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