SAGE Advice: Will Newspapers Share in 2008 Election Ad Bonanza?

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By: Leo J. Shapiro, Erik Shapiro and Steve Yahn

With the U.S. public anxious for regime change at home, the 2008 Presidential election ? nearly a year and a half away ? looks to be a hot one.

According to our May national poll, six in ten (59 percent) ? up eleven points from 48 percent in April ? Americans say they do not feel their country is moving in the right direction. For the last 23 months, the high was 62 percent, the low was 44 percent and the average was 53 percent.

Collectively, the 18 candidates now chomping at the vote have raised record funds to support their efforts to project charisma, leadership, and promises to the nation.

The huge flow of funds into campaigns will trigger a media feeding frenzy. Television will get the bulk of money spent for paid advertising by virtue of its unique ability to project images or brands and the short, finite, supply of prime time.

The Internet?s growth in advertising revenue will be greatly accelerated by virtue of advertisers? growing recognition that the Internet, lets them reach and stir targeted audiences to action.

Newspapers will, largely on a pro bono basis, carry the main burden of communicating candidate stands on policy issues.

Looking toward the 2008 Presidential election, the public now leans toward the Democratic rather than the Republican Party by a margin of 52 to 21 percent in May, up from 43 to 35 percent in March. In the average month during the 15-month period ending in April 2007, those favoring Democrats led those favoring Republicans by 42 to 34 percent, with 9 percent ambivalent.

In our May poll, the strongest Democratic ticket ? Obama for President and Clinton as Vice President ? led the strongest Republican ticket ? McCain for President and Giuliani as Vice President ? by a margin of 56 to 27 percent, with 14 percent undecided.

But it is still early.

The outcome of the 2008 Presidential election could continue to be subject to uncertainty until close to the day of election, as was the case in the 2004 election. God help us all if, as in 2000, the outcome of the 2008 Presidential election remains uncertain for months after the polls close. The stakes are now higher than they have ever been.

Drawing from a pool of past Presidents, the one the public would choose to lead the country today is John F. Kennedy (15 percent), followed by Reagan (13 percent), Abraham Lincoln (12 percent), and Bill Clinton (12 percent)

BOTTOM LINE

Newspapers? difficulty to sell advertising to campaigns stems in part from the failure of the industry to provide media buyers with audience statistics that are as credible and useful as the audience statistics provided by television and Internet media. Also, talent needed to produce moving advertising is more abundantly available for television than for newspaper advertising, given the larger flow of funds to television.

To capture its fair share of campaign advertising, the newspaper industry needs to suck up the courage to spend what needs to be spent to: 1) develop current, credible, useful audience statistics and 2) subsidize, if necessary, the hiring of the best graphic talent and greatest wordsmiths to create print advertising that jumps off the page and into the hearts and minds of readers.

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