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Political TV Ads: New Tech Makes Them Affordable

Monday, 31 Mar 2008 | 8:26 AM ET

TV advertising is considered the most effective way to reach the masses. But until now it's only been accessible to those with hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend.

But that's in the past Thanks to a new technology from ad innovator Spotrunner, candidates in every one of the 500,000 elections this year--no matter how small--will be able to buy TV ads. Backed by CBS and ad giant WPP Spotrunner makes access to TV commercials exceedingly cheap: $500 to produce a spot and $1,500 to get it on air.

Now it's launching a focused political application. With 4.5 billion dollars expected to be spent on political advertising this year, thanks to Spotrunner's system, more of those dollars will be spent on TV.

Here's how Spotrunner's system works: Candidates pick among dozens of political TV ads and there will be a hundred of them by end of summer. You pick the imagery, customize it with your own photos, logo and video, personalize the voice over and text. You're guaranteed that no one will have similar images in your cable zone.

Then you carefully target the ads, based on cable zone, census information, and voting history. So you can send one message about education to soccer moms, another about medicare policy to older folks. There's been no way to be this targeted before. And Spotrunner isn't limited to TV. You you can buy a comprehensive ad campaign--TV, radio and print--all through their system.

And now Spotrunner users get the benefit of the experience of high profile political advisors. Political consultants Mike Murphy, Bill Bradley, Bob Shrum and Dan Schnur are the company's new advisory board, weighing in on everything from what kind of imagery candidates should use to what kind of demographic info is the most relevant.

I spoke to Shrum who says he thinks this will truly revolutionize the political process, giving people who don't have a lot of money the ability to get their message out.

More communication is always better for democracy, even if we're bored to death of political ads. And there's no question this will have a huge impact on politics. Spotrunner tells me that when they rolled out this system in 17 states last year, challengers who used their ads were much more likely to beat incumbents. And with a Presidential election that could be won or lost by just a few districts, you can really see how this focused targeting could be more crucial than ever.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.