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Politics: Who Pays for the Soft-Money Ban?

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Forget about how hamstrung Hillary and Ricky's parties and supporters will be if the candidates' ban on soft money holds up in the coming weeks. Pity the poor ad executives who are going to lose all that business -- and the local TV ad salespeople who depend on the bounce that campaigns give to their ad rates. Right now they're all wondering what going cold turkey is really going to cost. "I think we spent $3 or $4 million thus far," says David Axelrod, the Chicago ad executive and media consultant to the New York State Democratic Committee. "We would have spent more for sure." Donny Deutsch, who designed campaign ads for Bill Clinton in 1992, notes that TV stations may be hit even harder. "Traditionally, ad rates are driven up during the campaigns," he says. "So the ripple effect could hit the stations that charge those rates." Before the ban, Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf designed an ad for naral and paid about $50,000 to run it on Lifetime and HGTV in Long Island markets. He believes that if naral and others respect the ban, the whole TV industry could lose as much as $10 million. "This was a bonanza for smaller stations, a guaranteed source of revenue," he says. "And it's going to be a dent in their profits. Any situation where there's a guaranteed advertiser not showing up means time being sold at lower prices." Local cable is already feeling the pinch: Time Warner City Cable president Larry Fischer says NY1's sales are slow. "Here we sit, five weeks before the election, and we have nothing except one message from the Conservative Party," he says. "We're disappointed." While many ad-sales reps are confident the ban won't hold, Sheinkopf predicts a boom for another sector of the industry. "The mail vendors will do great," he says. "And everyone's phone will be ringing off the hook with phone ads -- two or three or six times a day."


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