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The Cable Show 2011: Local TV Still ‘Nuclear Weapon' of Election Ads

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Chicago -- Obama advisor David Axelrod and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie may have been talking to a cable industry audience, but they used the The Cable Show stage to argue for the dominance of broadcast, especially local TV, in election ad spending.

While it may seem that cable provides the necessary targeting for election campaign messages, local television is "still the nuclear weapon," Axelrod said as part of Wednesday's General Session.

"I still think broadcast's is going to get the lion's share," he said, noting that 68% of media spending went to stations in battleground markets in 2008. "It isn't always terribly efficient, but you hit a lot of people in that market and that market may be pivotal to the election."

Gillespie agreed. "Independents, they're making decisions on large, national issues," he said. "The national ad campaign still going to be the most resonant."

Axelrod estimated that the Obama campaign spent about 12% on cable buys in 2008. "I think we'll spend a little more this time," he said. "But there are still some barriers on cable that we need to overcome." Among those barriers he cited is the fact that you often have to buy cable in dayparts, and hence can't target specific programming to the degree you can on broadcast.

Leveraging new technology and advanced advertising would make cable a more desirable buy, Axelrod said. "If we have the ability not just to send ads people's way, but have an interactive experience with them -- if cable can do that for us, that would be an attractive feature."