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CNN Uses Politics to Hook Madison Avenue on Commercials

CNN hopes to take America’s intensifying interest in who will run Washington in 2017 to tighten Madison Avenue’s 2016 focus on the Time Warner-owned cable news outlet.

As CNN devotes more of its hours to debates, “town halls” and the like related to the 2016 race for U.S. President, the network has been making greater use of unorthodox ad placements. During live coverage of caucuses and primaries, for example, CNN has made use of a commercial format it calls a “squeezeback” that allows for an advertisement to run alongside a separate screen of its live coverage, without audio. The network has also sold space alongside key election-news alerts to Volkswagen’s Audi USA.

The network has reason to harness the added heft it has gained from the election. In February, according to Nielsen, CNN posted its highest primetime ratings in both total viewers and in the demographic most coveted by advertisers in news programming, people between 25 and 54 since November 2008. That broader crowd means the network has the chance to charge higher prices in what is known as TV’s “scatter” market; win the notice of a broader array of sponsors; and get the word out about its programming lineup to a wider viewership.

“We are effectively using 2016 to help us capitalize on 2017,” said Katrina Cukaj, executive vice president of portfolio sales and client partnerships at Turner Ad Sales, part of Time Warner’s large Turner unit. “This is a really interesting year for us, giving us an opportunity to try a lot of different techniques and formats.”

Audi has also sponsored a new graphic that occasionally surfaces at the bottom of CNN’s TV screen that sports exit and entrance poll data and prediction numbers. The automotive marketer also lends itsw name to a digital hub that contains more of that content.

Indeed, some of the new methods involve using TV to push viewers to digital, where the advertisers can attempt to give them a greater amount of information. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation wants to raise viewer interest in issues around the national debut. Each week on “State of the Union,” a Sunday talk show anchored by Jake Tapper, the host asks candidates to discuss how they might address the debt issue. Their answers and others are presented on a digital hub viewed on CNNMoney.

Other promotions take place entirely in digital-media venues. Comcast’s Universal studio, part of NBCUniversal, promoted its film“The Purge” in a debate-themed CNN presentation late last month on Snapchat Discover – one day after the network’s broadcast of a Republican debate. CNN hopes to sell more of this concept to sponsors, Cukaj said.

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