The Supreme Court's decision that rolls out the red carpet for down-to-the-wire issue advertising adding pressure to a jam-packed and front-loaded primary election season, with the potential to put enormous pressure on inventory, possibly squeezing out traditional advertisers and sending rates sky-high. And that's before we learn about Michael Bloomberg's plans.
We'll start with Bloomberg. The New York Post mentioned the oft-cited figure of 500M. That's how much of his personal fortune which the newly-minted political independent (after stints in both major parties) is willing to spend out of his own pocket on a run for the White House. It further speculates that as much as 300M of that may go straight to television. The pressure may be so great, and so many states may be put into play by the pressure of his candidacy on both parties, that what was once a battleground-oriented national spot advertising approach may spill more and more into the national network category.
As for the issue ads part of the equation, both the advertisers and the regulators are in the early stages of digesting just what the Supreme ruling means. Corporations and unions both have issue axes to grind in the media, and both have favored and disfavored candidates. They are trying to figure out just what they'll be able to do and what may still be prohibited. If it's any consolation, over at the Federal Election Commission, they're going through the same process from the opposite side – just how are they supposed to enforce whatever it is that the Supreme Court just unleashed? Both of these wild cards hold great potential to send rates skyrocketing and schedules bulging.
SmartMedia observation: As for the FEC, it took it seemingly forever to get around to actually figuring out how it was going to enforce McCain-Feingold. The 527 group situation was a major case in point – it has spent the early portion of 2007 issuing fines for spending money as though they were PACs, not 527s, but when the campaign was in progress, the FEC declined to get directly involved. MoveOn.org and Club for Growth were among many 527s pouring cash into the election process one way or another. It will be very interesting to see what the fall-out from this will be. But whatever the fall-out, be ready for a bumper crop of political cash, with the concurrent potential for damage to your year-round clients as they get squeezed off the schedule by hungry politicians to whom you cannot say no.