Clear woos ad biz at ‘Home’

Channel diverting dollars to radio, interactive

Kicking off a broadcast upfront week in which advertisers are doing their usual griping about rising prices and declining network viewership, Clear Channel Communications made a savvy “outfront” debut Monday, announcing its “Gone From Home Network” — an attempt to sell advertisers on non-television media.

The network is based on the idea that Americans are on-the-go, distracted consumers who are away from home (and their TV screens) more often than not.

“Television is impacting fewer and fewer people every year,” said Don Howe, prexy of Clear Channel Advantage, the division launching Gone From Home. “TV is just part of the picture. We want to help you make a lasting connection between your brand and your consumers and create a balanced media plan.”

Detouring dollars

Such a balance, as the logic goes, would come from putting advertising dollars into Clear Channel’s massive radio (the conglom owns more than 1,200 stations), interactive and live entertainment outlets.

Part of the company’s motivation is to lure more national advertisers, which currently account for only about 30% of ad revenues from Clear Channel’s radio properties.

The presentation was nicely timed. The atmosphere of this upfront season is tainted by complaints from advertisers that ad costs are getting too high (JPMorgan forecasts an increase of more than 5% in broadcast ad spending to about $8.7 billion this year), and that television is losing some of its force.

Gorilla warfare

“TV is still the 800-pound gorilla in terms of media channels, but a couple of years ago it was the 1,000-pound gorilla,” said John Partilla, CEO of Brand Buzz, which is owned by the WPP Group. “You’ve got your biggest tool declining and becoming more fragmented than ever. Overall TV viewership is declining as people spend more time on alternate means — like the Internet, videogames, even cable.”

Primetime viewership among the six major broadcasters is down 2% for the period between September 2002 and May 4.

Another possibly fortuitous turn for Clear Channel is the looming June 2 deadline by which the Federal Communications Commission must vote on regulations restricting ownership in mixed media markets. If the regs are relaxed, as expected, Clear Channel could expand its holdings.

In true upfront fashion, Clear Channel pulled out all the stops for its outfront, held at Broadway’s Ford Theater. Hosts included Rick Dees, Carson Daly and Rush Limbaugh, and the presentation was capped by a performance by Jewel.