Newspapers Advised on How to Capture More Political Advertising Dollars

Article excerpt

The same day that Bill Clinton kicked off his reelection campaign with a television ad, a panel of newspaper executives met in Atlanta to plot how to capture some of the $6 billion-plus that will be spent on political ad campaigns by 1996.

Clinton's TV commercial is typical of the political media spending trend. Television, with its ability to convey powerful visual images and emotions, has become the medium of choice. Direct mail usage also has surged, as campaign managers seek to target homes of selected blocks of voters.

Other media gains have been newspapers' loss. According to a Newspaper Association of America task force study, only 3% of all dollars spent in political campaigns go to newspapers.

That doesn't mean the dollars are gone for good, or that newspapers shouldn't go after them, said the panel, which met during the NAA annual Marketing Conference in Atlanta. With each share point correlating to about $60 million dollars, smart newspapers are changing the way they look at political advertising.

It's a change long overdue, say many campaign watchers. For a lot of reasons, in the mind of campaign consultants, newspapers are "very much an afterthought," said Ron Faucheux, president of Campaigns & Elections magazine.

"Don't fight the other media," Faucheux advised newspaper salespeople. "Sell the concept of a media mix .. just as television can be the power engine of campaigns, and direct mail can be the pinpoint bomber of political campaigns, newspapers can be the glue that brings them all together."

This cohesive quality becomes even more critical in an era of increasingly fragmented audiences, Faucheux said. Newspaper readers are involved with and care about the issues in a political campaign, he said. To prove it, sales people should consider matching subscriber lists with voter lists to show the overlap.

Though many detest the negative tone political advertising has taken, newspapers can benefit from the trend, Faucheux said. As advertising has become more information-oriented, it also has become more attack-oriented.

"The more attack you have, and the more negative you have, the more you have a need to document the facts, Faucheux said. …