Election advertising: No contracts, less anxiety.
Election advertising: No contracts, less anxiety. Photo by Nir Kafri
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The announcement in the dead of Monday night that the touted September elections are off, and that Kadima has joined Likud in a unity government, foiled many an ambitious plan not only in the political arena but in the advertising and media worlds as well.

Ad agencies had been revving motors and rubbing hands in anticipation of campaign blitzes as the warring parties tried to obliterate each other. At 2 A.M. Monday night, the dream died.

Strategy advisers, websites, media companies and advertising agencies had been negotiating with the big parties and were gleefully counting their chickens, and big birds they were. Industry insiders expected a roughly NIS 100 million windfall for the advertising industry in all its branches this summer; now it's back to business as usual, and business these days isn't great.

At least some are trying to see the bright side, though. "As far as I'm concerned, the postponement of the elections is great news," said Yoram Bauman, who had already struck an agreement to work with the party being formed by veteran media personality and fledgling politician Yair Lapid. What's he so happy about? "Now everybody understands that Netanyahu and Mofaz are a pair of cowards. It is also clear now where the political center in Israel is."

Bauman says his loss of income isn't a big issue because his considerations when tackling election campaigns aren't over money. "I make my living from my commercial clients. I'm not doing volunteer work for Lapid, but that isn't my living."

Strategic adviser Ronen Zur, who's been working with the religious party Shas, concurs that he and his colleagues aren't going to suffer any great body blow from the postponement. "In practice none of us have closed any agreements yet," Zur says. "Anyway, there's this myth about a windfall from elections. It isn't true. The big ad agencies don't fall all over themselves to get involved in election campaigns because the resources they have to invest aren't worth the price they could collect."

So just as the big ad companies weren't all agog about the elections being brought forward to September, says Zur, they aren't losing sleep over the postponement. Not all share his complacency. Likud party representatives had been talking with name-brand ad agencies of Reuven Adler, Shaya Segal, Motti Morell, and Gil Samsonov. Labor had been intending to continue using the services of Ben Horin & Alexandrovitz.

But the companies openly expressing the keenest disappointment are the billboard and Internet companies. This year an ever bigger chunk of income had been expected to go to the Internet - not only for advertising, but for online activity by the political parties themselves, for which they'd need a helping hand. A lot of hope had been riding on the election in the Internet sector, say sources there.

"A lot of people had been anticipating an especially strong third quarter because of the elections," says an industry source. "It isn't that anybody's going to collapse because of what happened, it's just that everybody will have to continue working as usual, selling commercial ads."

Billboard companies are bitterly disappointed. "We're feeling very sad," said Ilan Saadon, CEO of Deal Tov, which owns space on 850 billboards around the country. "For us elections are incredible business."

Deal Tov had been poised to start a campaign for Yisrael Katz, the transportation minister, ahead of Likud primary elections leading into the general elections now canceled. Now that campaign is dead, Saadon says.

Canaan Media had been working on political campaigns for posters to be plastered onto 3,000 buses within a matter of days. Now all have been canceled. "They didn't even tell us," says CEO Ohad Gibli. "But we figured it out for ourselves that the campaigns were off. We're disappointed: elections are our money time."

Surprise!

And then there are some who think the cancelation of early elections is a good thing for the ads industry, not a bad thing. "The government's expansion and the delay are a relief for the big ad companies," says advertising executive Ronit Eckstein, who had worked with Yisrael B'Aliya and the Labor Party. If anything, Netanyahu's announcement of elections in September had taken the sector by surprise, giving them almost no time to organize. Some companies were in no condition to put off their routine work and devote huge resources to an election blitz, she explains - they had commitments they couldn't put off. The news will give them time to prepare properly, says Eckstein.

"Actually, election season starts now anyway," she says. "The government's majority is only on paper. Its stability is not assured. One may assume that the big parties will be setting up campaign headquarters anyway, to start now grooming public opinion." By the time the election is really held, the parties and the advertising industry will be better prepared, she says.

Itai Ben Horin, who had been ready to spearhead a campaign for Labor, led by MK Shelly Yacimovich, contends the delay is good for his client. "We've been at Labor's side for the last year and a half and I assume we'll stay there in the year to come, and help build an alternative to the coalition," Ben Horin told TheMarker yesterday. "The thing here is that after the pyrotechnics, advertising and politics, one is left feeling sick to the stomach by the politicians who declare in the morning that they wouldn't be caught dead sitting in a coalition with Netanyahu and that he's a liar, and come evening they're signing agreements with him. I'm very happy and proud that the person we're working with is cut from a different cloth."