Political Ad Spending More of The Same Hype.

  A year and a half ago in anticipation of what undoubtedly would become the greatest impact the Hispanic vote would have on any Presidential Election to date, I began the long and tedious process of trying to convince the folks at the presidential candidate’s headquarters that newspaper advertising would make a great vehicle to advertise their message to Hispanics and secure votes.  Together with a colleague, we hit up everyone from Richardson to that long-shot democratic rising star, Senator Barack Obama.

I have been in the newspaper and print business for quite some time, and presidential election years traditionally represent an ad revenue boost for most newspapers. Our plan was to get in early, become a valuable resource and have every piece of information ready: a political rate, the ability to target locally and by swing state, editorial support, positioning, ease of placement, a community outreach program designed to get readers to vote, a full list of Hispanic-owned newspapers with strong roots in the community and much, much more.  By the time we were done we had presented by phone, email, or in person to more than 20 campaign committees, my colleague had reached out to Senate and Congressional campaign offices and we even went as far as to travel to Washington D.C. (more than once!) where we met with both the DNC (Democratic National Committee) and the RNC (Republican National Committee).  Hundreds of Hispanic newspapers and print options were presented in an effort to prevent that one common shortcut many marketers targeting Hispanics often take: to wipe their hands clean of the extra work and use Hispanic broadcast and ONLY broadcast. We figured these guys would be savvy and not take that route.

Now we have nothing against Hispanic television or radio, but print always gets short-changed.  In all fairness, online (when it comes to the Hispanic market) also often gets left out.  The message was clear: use a strong and effective Hispanic media mix.

I have to say that we were treated politely, diplomatically, but basically told by both the DNC and RNC that they could not get involved until the primaries were out of the way and the candidate of choice was ready to roll full steam ahead.  The message coincided with the responses we received from the individual candidate’s offices, so we exchanged information, decided to stay closely in touch and wait. Little did we know what we were getting into and how much had changed in just a few short voter years.

For starters, our newfound friends were delighted to stay in touch and keep us in the loop.  From the moment we started talking, they started sending emails and press releases.  In fact, I could not keep up with all of them.  With so many candidates vying for that coveted Hispanic vote, I was getting as many as a couple of dozen press releases, position statements, daily agendas and much more from each candidate every day, day in and out.  Hillary Clinton was by far the most efficient.  Barely anything came from the Obama or McCain camps in the beginning. That should have been a clue.

By the time the primaries were in effect over and the frontrunners finally surfaced, we again reached out to the DNC and the RNC anticipating at the very least some request for more, updated information or at the most (optimistically) a request for a proposal.  The headlines in the trade and press were pretty much encouraging: “Obama, DNC pledge millions to mobilize Latino voters” (CNN).  John McCain 2008 Launches New Radio Spot: “Recipe”

Finally, the ads were starting.

The “millions” projected were in the vicinity of $20 million. Certainly our old friends could throw some of those ad dollars our way, right? We had been there since the beginning and my colleague had remained steadfast in his contacts and updates, digging, providing more information, offering greater options, presenting creative ideas.

But the print ads are still nowhere in sight.

On our next round of calls we were shot down like a candidate with a dirty little secret. No RFP’s, no information, no leads and one party marketing big even went as far as to ask that we remove him from any mailing lists making inquiries or providing updates.  Thanks for the editorial support, but no, thank you.  Some folks just plain ignored us. If any Hispanic newspapers, independently owned or not, were waiting for even the most miniscule piece of political advertising, they would have to keep on waiting.  But at least the press releases kept coming.

Then, just this past week, we saw a headline in one of the trades: “Hispanic Media May Reap Record Political Advertising Haul Ahead of Presidential Election.” (Portada — August 14th).

Hispanic Media? What media, broadcast?  Broadcast will be seeing this money…with Univision and Entravision seemingly at the top of this pecking order!  As the article states: “Univision CFO Andrew Hobson said that the company could pull in as much as $20 million in ad investment in H2 of 2008, representing a 78% increase in political ad spending over 2004.”

Holy smokes, 20+ million?  Isn’t that like…all of it! A 78% increase and all we get are press releases?

It’s clear print is getting the brush-off. Hispanic print is in a much better position then it was four years ago and I feel we deserve some respect! At a time when going grass roots and getting a real message across to the millions of coveted Hispanic voters should make some sense, the candidates are instead opting for selling a mass reach image with the underlining message that they are somehow supporting Hispanic media when in fact they are barely skimming the surface.  Who does that serve?  The hype around how much these candidates are giving to Hispanic media is as shallow as the candidate’s efforts to land a vote with nothing more than a smile and a handshake!

I do understand that online messaging can be effective and that the candidate’s websites are a strong draw for voters looking for information.  I understand the power of television and radio and the mass reach Univision and Telemundo can deliver. I’ve heard the argument that seeing and hearing Obama is more powerful and inspiring than just seeing a picture and reading some words, and that McCain, on the other hand, is not so much about that same pretty image, but…well, whatever his message represents (Experience? Homeland Security?)

But to have  Hispanic print overlooked is just plain insulting.  To loudly hype that you are spending so many millions on Hispanic media when in fact just two or three major players are getting a buy is just plain disgusting…and should be seen as offensive by all Hispanics and Hispanic business owners.  While Univision runs to the bank (and hell, I don’t really blame them), the rest of us should be inundating the DNC and RNC with calls.  So basically we are good enough to publish fluffy propaganda but not run your ads?

Newspapers report news.  We serve readers and will cover the elections regardless of what happens on the ad side.  But the fact is that these folks have just given Hispanic newspapers the grand blow-off. Will they do the same with…Hispanics?  Maybe I expect too much.

by Roger Gonzalez.

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