‘LaPolitics’: A political challenge for broadcast

    The share of political ad spending long held by broadcast television took a major dive in 2016 as campaigns in Louisiana and across the national turned their attention more to online platforms. It’s yet another sign that the media landscape is in transition—and that the shift could help color Louisiana’s campaigns to come.

    On the production side of political advertising, basic operations like writing, shooting and editing expanded last year as the final product—commercials and campaign spots—grew shorter. Broadcast television in particular appears to be facing a major challenge, which may prompt a change in selling strategies in the coming years.

    Compared to 2012, broadcast television’s overall share of political ad spending nationally slipped 13 points to 45% last year, according to the Virginia-based Borrell Associates, which produces advertising reports for the industry. At the same time, digital spending on social media and video sharing platforms increased nearly eightfold up to a 14% market share.

    Those same trends were seen in Louisiana as well, says Jared Arsement of Lafayette, who has managed media campaigns for Gov. John Bel Edwards and state Supreme Court Justice Jimmy Genovese. Moving forward, local media buyers and consultants expect broadcast television to have to start selling political airtime, whereas in the past it was a guaranteed book of business. “They’re going to have to be more accommodating and their pricing will have to be competitive,” says Arsement. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

    The Political Firm’s Jason Hebert of Baton Rouge, who manages media for Majority Whip Steve Scalise and Congressman Mike Johnson, says the shift to targeted media has changed the way his company operates. With social media and web campaigns requiring video that’s shorter than what typically appears on TV, the length of the spots being produced is changing as well. “Over the course of the last cycle we produced more 15-second spots than 30-second spots,” Hebert adds.

    But don’t write any tombstones yet. Through it all broadcast TV still maintained its title as overall champion, snaring $4.4 billion in 2016, or three times more than any other competing medium, according to the Borrell report, which likewise offered this conclusion: “(T)he real story wasn’t what happened as much as what changed.”

    They said it: “Moderation is not something I admire in people.” —Liz Mangham of Southern Strategy Group, in last week’s LaPolitics Report podcast

    Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter, or on Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.

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