How many channels are on your cable package? I am guessing a whole lot. Many (most?) of them go unwatched at any time in a given day, yet they still survive. The obvious reason for that is that the modern TV audience is much more fragmented than it once was, which limits the reach of advertising campaigns, or at least the traditional ones.
However, there is an upside to the fragmentation: audiences are self-selecting into channels that cover their interests. This makes it possible to do much more cost effective and targeted ad buys. One of the areas of particular interest to TV types is the mystery of the disappearing male viewers. Over the past decade and a half TV audiences have skewed increasingly female as men simply stop watching. If you dig around you’ll find many navel-gazing articles about this phenomenon: believe me, the entertainment complex is investing a lot of money in trying to figure out where these viewers went. [The answer, it seems to me is obvious if you are not a liberal: most men are sick of being belittled and mocked in practically every “hit” TV show and having their values routinely trashed, but hey that’s a topic for another diary].
Getting back on topic, there is one type of programming which bucks this trend: sports. The trouble from an advertising standpoint is that TV sports is expensive. However, when there is a large supply of something the price necessarily falls. Now, take a look at your Saturday TV schedules: how many channels are due to show one, two or even three College Football games? If your TV is anything like mine, the number is somewhere approaching 10. That’s 10-30 games, every Saturday from now to the election. Now, the viewing figures will not be enormous, but I’m willing to bet they will include a healthy share of those hard to reach male non-viewers.
Given this, the McCain campaign should spread a little advertising around College Football broadcasts. Indeed, based on who is playing who the ads could be tailored even more carefully to the right audience. Personally, I am amazed that they are not doing this already: watching last week’s Missouri-Nebraska game [a swing state, and perhaps a swing district] we saw no presidential ads, just a few for Kansas Senator Pat Roberts. The same today during the Kansas-*Colorado *game. Yet watch regular local TV in our market (Kansas City) and you will see McCain and Obama spots all the time. We’ve been very clever in the use of internet advertising, but this is an opportunity to wage a very smart campaign that maximizes the efficient use of the remaining campaign funds.