Election promises more ad clutter

With Prime Minister Jean Chrétien expected to call a federal election for Nov. 27, television advertisers - who have already had to work around broadcast schedules disrupted by the Olympics - are faced with the prospect of having their ads bumped...

With Prime Minister Jean Chrétien expected to call a federal election for Nov. 27, television advertisers – who have already had to work around broadcast schedules disrupted by the Olympics – are faced with the prospect of having their ads bumped or moved out of rotation during the critical pre-holiday season.

It’s not a situation the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA), a vocal critic of increased advertising clutter on television, is happy about.

The timing of the election couldn’t be worse for advertisers, says ACA president Ron Lund, as it comes during the busiest advertising period of the year. The fact that election advertising doesn’t fall under the 12-minute-per-hour commercial limit set out by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) means that so-called ad clutter will be at its peak during the election period.

Since 1993, the ACA has been conducting studies that indicate that TV ad clutter, including that of election advertising, dramatically reduces the impact of surrounding ads.

With that in mind, the association is advising its members to demand better rates from media vendors and is counseling agencies to seek guarantees that their clients’ commercials will air as originally scheduled.

‘It’s not worthless, it’s just worth less, ‘ says Lund.

For their part, media buyers and planners contacted by Strategy say they are seeking verbal and written assurances from broadcasters that their clients’ interests will be protected, but that there’s little more that can be done.

‘Short of taking a hard line and saying we’re taking our ball and bat and going home – to another medium – there’s not much we can do,’ says Mary Falbo, senior vice-president, media director with Saatchi & Saatchi in Toronto.

Some media planners, however, are trying a different approach.

‘We have advised or will be advising stations that we will not be accepting make-goods in that window – that we’ll only take credits for any spots that are pre-empted,’ says Sara Hill, senior vice-president and managing director of Toronto-based M2 Universal.

‘If we notice that there’s a considerable drop in the commercial audience because of that [election] clutter, then we’ll also be seeking compensation retroactively.’

According to a study conducted by York University professors Fred Fletcher and Robert MacDermid, Canada’s four major political parties ran a total of 36 different spots over the month-long period leading up to the 1997 federal election.