May 16, 2003

As the debate over campaign finance reform continues, TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG reveals that candidates and special interest groups spent over $50 million on television advertising in the first five months of 2003.

"This is positive news for the advertising industry," comments Steven Fredericks, president and CEO, TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. "There has been a great deal of industry speculation about the impact of political spending in 2003 since it is a non-election year.

"In 2001, which was the last non-election year, mayoral races took place in New York and Los Angeles, while gubernatorial races took place in New Jersey and Virginia; these were large, expensive markets. While on the surface this year's current spending total closely matches spending for the same time period in 2001, there is a marked contrast in advertising activity. In 2003, there is a much higher level of activity in smaller markets, especially among the numerous issue groups."

According to the TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG analysis, spending encompassed the following categories: political campaigns, issue advocacy campaigns, issue awareness advertising, and voter information advertising.

Political advertising at the state and local levels played a significant role during the first five months of the year. Over $15 million was spent as a number of candidates battled over the airwaves in primaries for upcoming elections to be held in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi and in larger metropolitan areas.

According to TNSMI/CMAG, the dominant themes of this year's campaigns largely echo those from the 2002 midterm elections, mainly healthcare and the economy.

"We have seen a surprising amount of intensity in both the dollars and the messages coming from sponsors of federal and state advertising this year," comments Evan Tracey, chief operating officer, TNSMI/CMAG "Moreover, with the 2004 presidential race about to move into the initial advertising phase this summer, these issue campaigns are bound to have an impact on the mindset of voters."

Mayoral elections in some of America's most populous cities (Austin, Dallas and Houston, TX; Denver, CO; Charleston, SC; Chicago, IL; Jacksonville, Tampa and Orlando, FL, and Philadelphia, PA), along with a host of smaller cities, resulted in an additional $6.5 million in political ad spending. The prevailing themes have centered on local budgetary woes and some homeland security issues.

Federal issue advocacy media campaigns have also provided consistent ad dollars in 2003. During the first five months, issue groups spent an estimated $18 million. Of this, an estimated $10.37 million was spent on healthcare-related advertising, while prescription drug issues generated another $4.72 million. Other issue areas focused on federal judicial nominations, the environment, and tort reform, which, when combined, accounted for another $1 million in spending.

Finally, a driving force in television advertising spending was issue advocacy at the state level. TNSMI/CMAG estimates that this category of spending eclipsed $19 million. Of this, $10 million was spent on healthcare and tort reform issue ads.

Florida and New York, two critically important states for the upcoming presidential election have seen substantial issue ad spending. New York Governor George Pataki, for one, has been under a constant barrage - to the tune of $7 million -- from issue groups targeting budget cuts, healthcare and taxes. In Florida, ads on healthcare and tort reform, along with messages from the sugar industry and environmental groups have muddled the airwaves with an estimated $3 million in issue advertising.

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