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Published: Saturday, 7/10/2004

Toledo TV hot market for political ads

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

The campaigns for president and groups seeking to influence the race have spent more than $2.5 million on television advertisements in the Toledo media market and are on a pace that will break all local records for political advertising by the time the Nov. 2 election passes.

The tidal wave of advertising could take up so much airtime that candidates for local or state offices may have trouble booking time on local channels this fall, TV advertising officials said.

Merchants also will face changes in their advertising schedules, which, in some cases, have been set for months.

"This will be the biggest political year in the station's history," said Mary Gerken, the director of sales at WTVG-TV, Channel 13. "It was not at all what we anticipated."

She said her analysis is that nearly $7 million will be spent on political ads in the Toledo market by all candidates when it is all over - three times what was spent four years ago.

That proves what Ms. Gerken said she learned from national industry insiders: the Toledo market is the hottest in a hot state for political ads this year.

"I've never seen it like this. It's triple four years ago," Laurie Stahl, who handles political advertising at WTOL-TV, Channel 11, said of the station's revenue from the ads. "I think it's because Ohio is a very important state."

WTOL leads the way, having so far collected more than $1.3 million in advertising from the Bush and Kerry campaigns and from independent groups airing their own television commercials about the race.

In second place is WTVG, which has collected more than $700,000, station records show. WNWO-TV, Channel 24, reported nearly $340,000 in ads for the presidential race so far, while WUPW-TV, Channel 36, has been paid more than $140,000.

Anticipating a broadcast crunch this fall, local candidates already have begun buying time for the last couple of weeks before the November election, the advertising executives said.

"I'm sitting on almost $300,000 from local candidates right now," Ms. Gerken said. Ms. Stahl said she has booked more than $400,000 from the locals.

Both said they probably will get to the point where they have to turn away local candidates. The stations are required to carry commercials for candidates for federal offices, but they have the option of rejecting state and local candidates.

Candidates sometimes try to save money by purchasing what are known in the industry as "preemptable" ads that can be bumped by more expensive "nonpreemptable" ads when advertising schedules fill up. But this year, the television officials said, candidates are spending the extra cash to try to guarantee they won't get bumped from premium programming, especially local newscasts.

Ms. Stahl said they have resorted to other means to deal with the volume.

"We've had to raise the rates to accommodate what we have had come in because we are trying to protect the people" who already have purchased advertising, Ms. Stahl said. "What's happening is we have our regular advertisers, who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, and they are getting kicked out" to make room for the political ads.

Gary Yoder, WUPW general sales manager, said his station has benefited from the full broadcast logs at other stations because both political and nonpolitical advertisers who cannot find ad space elsewhere come to his station to buy whatever time they can.

"Will we do very well compared to last year, and compared to budget and compared to prior years? Yeah. We will have a very strong year here at the station," he said.

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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