TV advertisers go on make-good frenzy

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Marketers that pulled out of scheduled TV spots are scrambling for make-goods to replace lost time, while networks, with little inventory to spare, are taking the rare step of giving cash back to advertisers.

Collectively, the major broadcast networks lost $112 million in advertising through March 28, according to Advertising Age estimates, about 19% of their ad revenue over the first 10 days of the war. The five cable news networks lost $29.1 million, or 77% of ad revenue, during that time.

Advertisers including Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Toyota Motor Sales USA and MasterCard International were successful in asking the networks to remove their commercials. Pfizer is also said to have had its Viagra ads removed from network schedules, though that could not be confirmed.

hard line

Originally, networks took a hard line, insisting only travel-related advertisers such as airlines and cruise lines, as well as the armed services, would be permitted to pull ads in regularly scheduled entertainment and news programming.

The pullouts, however, leave the networks hard-pressed to give advertisers back commercial time lost. "It's going to be difficult to make good for pre-empted time in the second quarter," said Jon Nesvig, president-advertising sales for Fox Broadcasting Co. "Second quarter is crazy tight-much more than the first quarter," said Geoff Robison, senior VP-national broadcast, the Palisades Media Group, Santa Monica, Calif.

This has put some TV advertisers in a difficult position. Some who elected to be taken off the air are having a hard time getting back on in the second quarter. "If you decided not to be on the air, the networks are going to work with you," said Peggy Green, president-national broadcast for Publicis Groupe's Zenith Media Services. "But you've lost the [gross rating points] weight. You have to decide whether you want to be off the air, and risk the fact that you might not get those GRPs back."

She added, "Every unit that is pre-empted is a problem right now."A spokesman for Dr Pepper/Seven Up said the beverage company pulled all advertising from March 20 through Sunday, March 23, but didn't know if the commercial media was rescheduled for a later date.

The press to get back on air comes at the close of the first quarter, a time when many marketers seek to make-good commercial inventory voluntarily or involuntarily moved around. Some advertisers, including movie studios with time-sensitive film openings, have already received cash back from the networks, according to media executives.

Last week, the broadcast networks were pre-empting much less programming, in some cases only a half-hour a day. Most of the pre-emptions were during daytime schedules, where advertising rates are far less expensive than in prime time.

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