Spot TV got a $1 billion boost this year from political spending. That's good news for a medium that got walloped more than most last year. Perhaps even better news for the market is the pace of sales—post-election—in the fourth quarter. Chris Rohrs, president of the Television Bureau of Advertising, says both local and national spot sales are up double digits through December. The early read on first quarter 2003, he says, is single-digit increases.
Rohrs observes that, while political spending helped a lot, most major ad categories are up through the first three quarters of the year, including healthy increases for nine of the top 10 spending segments. According to data supplied by New York-based ad tracker CMR, automotive, for example, is up 15%, while the restaurants category is up 9%; auto dealers, up 20%; telecommunications, up 8%. In fact, of the top 25 categories, only six posted less spending for the first nine months vs. the year-ago period. Among them: computers and software, home centers/hardware stores (both down 23%) and over-the-counter medicines (-12%).
"The real issue is the second half of next year, when we come against comparisons to this year's political spending," says Rohrs. "We're going to need a pretty solid general economy to make our forecast" for next year. That forecast is moderate and in the +1% to +3% range.
For now, spot is benefiting from advertiser perception that "TV is a safe harbor; it works," says Rohr. "More and more advertisers are being careful in where they spend and want to know the dollars they spend are going to be effective in building brand and selling stuff."