Clients protest `clutter’

Most political pundits say this federal election voters are in a sour mood.And equally out of sorts are a good number of advertisers whose media plans may have been thwarted by a crtc decision - requested by the Canadian Association of...

Most political pundits say this federal election voters are in a sour mood.

And equally out of sorts are a good number of advertisers whose media plans may have been thwarted by a crtc decision – requested by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters – on paid political advertising.

Specifically, and unlike in any other election, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has allowed broadcasters not to count political ads as part of the 12 minutes of commercial time an hour they are now permitted.

The crtc approved the cab request Sept. 14. The only other time such action was allowed was during the 1992 constitutional referendum.

‘Member alert’

The Association of Canadian Advertisers, in a ‘member alert,’ says news, public affairs and sports programs may be the most affected by the crtc decision because broadcasters have more control over their content.

Lowell Lunden, chairman of the board of aca and manager of marketing services at the Quaker Oats Company of Canada, says the value of the commercials advertisers have already paid for is no longer there.

‘It’s a question of what the advertiser paid for,’ Lunden says.

Bob Reaume, vice-president, marketing, at the aca, says what broadcasters have done is weaken the effect of regular paid advertising.

‘It’s dilution,’ Reaume says. ‘What the broadcasters have done is add more water to the solution.’

By allowing broadcasters to air more than their permitted 12 minutes an hour, the aca says members’ advertising will run, but will be worth less than when they bought it and should have its price renegotiated or otherwise compensated for.

However, the cab firmly rejects the aca’s contention that the impact of regular commercials will be diluted and will not break through advertising clutter.

‘Flexibility’

In a prepared statement, cab President Michael McCabe says what the association sought from the crtc was ‘flexibility to protect advertisers.’

McCabe says the exemption means radio and tv stations will not have to make room for election ads by bumping advertisers who have already bought time in fall programming.

During the referendum campaign, McCabe says, ‘Broadcasters showed they were responsible. They didn’t overcrowd programs with too much advertising, and were sensitive to viewer concerns about ad clutter.’

Elections Canada permits political advertising for about a month before the election day.

For the Oct. 25 federal election, political advertising is allowed Sept. 26 to Oct. 23. One estimate suggests it is worth $10 million to $12 million.

Guidelines

Under the Broadcasting Arbitrator’s Guidelines, all tv stations must set aside 390 minutes of commercial air time in primetime for paid political advertising during the 27 days it is permitted.

Also, cbc and ctv must provide 214 minutes of free time, with tva and Quatre Saisons supplying a further 62 minutes of free time.

Joe Garwood, executive vice-president and chief operating officer at Baton Broadcasting, says his group’s stations will not run more than 12 minutes of advertising an hour regardless of the crtc ruling.

Garwood says Baton’s flagship, cfto in Toronto, and other stations such as cjoh in Ottawa and ckck in Regina will accommodate the extra advertising by using the air time taken up with promos for its programming.

He says Baton has two minutes available on the u.s.-produced Wheel of Fortune game show and will press that into service.

Other broadcasters could not be reached for comment. Reaume declined to say which advertisers are particularly upset about the crtc ruling, but noted the aca had taken ‘many’ calls.

Double-edged sword

Bruce Claassen, president and chief executive officer of Genesis Media in Toronto, an independent media management firm, says the election advertising issue is something of a double-edged sword.

Claassen says advertisers are no doubt relieved their commercials will not be abruptly pre-empted, but at the same time they have to be worried about clutter if the broadcasters carry more than the usual 12 minutes of commercial time.

He says what is critical in this dispute is the fact the aca was left out of the planning when the cab was preparing its request.

‘That’s the thing that smarts the most,’ Claassen says.

However, Lunden says, ‘It has nothing to do with ego.’

Rather, he says, there are a lot of serious issues stemming from the crtc decision that have not been considered.

Mistake

He says a number of broadcasters will eventually realize they have made a mistake.

As for how media buyers will look out for their clients’ interests, Claassen says Genesis Media – which handles such accounts as the Bank of Montreal, 3M Canada, McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada and Quaker Oats, among others – will do three things.

Staff will check to see if clients’ ads are being pre-empted, or if there is increased clutter around them, says Claassen, and, second, they will look at the overnight ratings for average one-minute audiences to see if viewers are tuning out.

Lastly, he says it is a question of ‘watching the tube’ to get a sense of ad placement.

David Cairns, media vice-president at Chiat/Day Advertising in Toronto, says he will not change the tv plans for such clients as Canadian Airlines International and Nissan Canada, but notes increasing the number of commercial minutes decreases the effectiveness of the ads already in place.

Cairns says it is a no-win situation for advertisers.