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Research: Political Ads Go HD

The number of political ads being delivered in HD has skyrocketed nearly tenfold in the last year to about 35% of the total in the fourth quarter of 2012, according Extreme Reach, which analyzed ads sent over its digital distribution network.

The move to HD during a year that is expected to produce record political spending highlights the growing importance that advertisers are placing on HD ads at a time when around 70% of all homes have HD sets.

During the first half of 2011, political advertisers were among the least likely to send out their ads in HD, with HD political ads accounting for only 3% of all political ads in the first half of 2010. In contrast, the proportion of HD ads soared to about 32% in the first half of 2011 and 35% in the fourth quarter.

But the Extreme Reach fourth quarter data also indicates that only 45% of local stations were capable of receiving HD ads, which would put them at a serious competitive disadvantage of local cable, where around 72% of systems could handle HD materials at the end of last year.

Generally the data shows increases in the overall adoption rate of HD ads, though the figures remain much smaller than the overall penetration of HD sets.

The new Extreme Reach data shows that about 23% of all ads -- political and non-political -- were delivered in HD in the fourth quarter of 2011 and that 61% of all TV outlets have the ability to accept HD.

While stations continue to significantly lag in HD adoption, the report noted that larger markets have a much higher adoption rate, with 75% of the local broadcast and local cable systems able to take HD ads.

"Political campaigns are won and lost based on a candidate's ability to foster a meaningful connection with their public," said John Roland, CEO of Extreme Reach in a statement. "Political advertisers are shifting from delivering SD TV ads to HD TV ads because they've recognized the value and necessity of HD advertising in the current cycle. HD advertising delivers higher quality creative with crisp visuals, providing a greater return on investment. Political advertisers are leading the way, taking full advantage of the of the HD format."

For this study, the Extreme Reach Research Group reports that it "analyzed data from more than 1,550 active television advertisers across 28 verticals, including political advertisers, and nearly every local and network television outlet in the United States and Canada. The analysis draws from a sample of 155,500 SD and HD commercial deliveries completed during the three-month period between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011."