Univision Opens Door for Ad Spending Rise

NEW YORK With 2.2 million viewers tuning in to watch the first Spanish-language Democratic presidential forum on Sept. 9, Univision Communications is positioning itself for a sizable revenue increase as 2008 campaign spending steps up, observers say.

While direct response ads from phone-card supplier Americatel, Wal-Mart commercials and Univision programming promotions were the only spots that aired during the forum, the milestone event implies a “flexing of muscles as a Spanish media juggernaut,” said Adam J. Segal, Washington-based director of the Hispanic Voter Project at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s an effort that can directly lead to increased political spending. If a candidate comes on your network and they see the value, they’re going to be more likely to invest in Spanish TV advertising.”

Evan Tracey, COO of TNS Media Intelligence/ Campaign Analysis Group, forecasts that the 2008 election cycle will generate $2.7 billion in political ads across all media. That’s a $1 billion bump from what the 2004 presidential cycle generated and $500 million more than the 2006 mid-term elections, according to TNS.

The lion’s share of the expenditures—about 70 percent—goes to TV, primarily at the local TV station and regional level, Tracey said.

However, Segal’s data shows that Hispanic TV has garnered only a razor-thin sliver of the overall political advertising pie. In the 2004 presidential election cycle, Hispanic television attracted slightly more than $20 million for all forms of political advertising, including ads from state and local candidates. And advertising specifically tied to the presidential campaigns drew slightly less than $9 million.

In the weeks before Labor Day this year, the presidential candidates and the organizations that support them spent some $10 million on TV political ads, Tracey said. Another $30 million has been spent by issue-oriented groups lobbying the public on legislative issues.

Segal reports that some presidential candidates have run a trickle of ads on Hispanic radio stations. But there hasn’t been any active Hispanic media campaign so far, according to Joe Uva, CEO of Univision. Enrique Perez, head of ad sales for the Telemundo Station Group, reports a similar situation.

Insiders are hesitant to say how much of a rise Hispanic TV will enjoy in the months leading up to “super duper” Tuesday, or the huge day of primaries on Feb. 5. That period of time is considered decisive in determining who will be the lead presidential candidates.

“If I had to take a stab at it, Hispanic spending will be 35 percent to 45 percent greater than in 2004,” Perez said. Tracey’s $1 billion forecast equals a 60 percent rise in overall ad spend.

“Many of the battleground states have an increasing number of Hispanic residents and Hispanic voters,” Perez noted, highlighting expected ad revenue gains in Nevada, Colorado, Arizona and California.