Groups Vie For Trump’s TV At­ten­tion

L'Opinion - - The Wall Street & I'Opinion - Ju­lie By­ko­wicz and Alex Lea­ry

WA­SHING­TON—An etha­nol group in a high-stakes bat­tle with the oil in­dus­try de­vi­sed its te­le­vi­sion ad­ver­ti­sing stra­te­gy with a single vie­wer in mind: Pre­sident Trump.

Its 30-se­cond com­mer­cial with an Io­wa corn far­mer ar­guing for a hi­gher per­cen­tage of etha­nol in ga­so­line has been in ro­ta­tion on Fox News since Ju­ly.

“We know he watches, so this is a good way for him to see it’s so­me­thing the heart­land wants,” said Leigh Claf­fey, spo­kes­wo­man for Growth Ener­gy, which last week be­gan run­ning a new ad no­ting Mr. Trump’s com­mit­ment to the is­sue.

The group’s op­po­nents have crow­ded on­to Fox’s air­waves, too: “Pre­sident Trump,” im­plores the nar­ra­tor of an Ame­ri­can Pe­tro­leum Ins­ti­tute ad, “don’t risk har­ming consu­mers” by in­crea­sing the etha­nol mixed in­to fuel.

On Tues­day, Mr. Trump will tra­vel to Io­wa, the na­tion’s big­gest corn-pro­du­cing state. He is ex­pec­ted to an­nounce etha­nol po­li­cy changes fa­vo­rable to the in­dus­try, de­li­ve­ring on a cam­pai­gn pro­mise while al­so step­ping in­to a long-run­ning fight bet­ween the Farm Belt and Big Oil.

The White House didn’t re­spond to a re­quest to com­ment.

The com­pe­ting ads re­present an ef­fort to grab the at­ten­tion of the world’s most po­wer­ful TV vie­wer, and a be­lief by Wa­shing­ton’s in­fluence in­dus­try that Mr. Trump can be swayed by what he sees on TV.

His frequent tweets about Fox News pro­grams leave lit­tle doubt that he tunes in re­gu­lar­ly to the sta­tion’s mor­ning show, “Fox & Friends,” as well Sean Han­ni­ty’s show at night. He is al­so a re­gu­lar vie­wer of Lou Dobbs, who hosts a show on Fox Bu­si­ness Net­work.

“It’s ab­so­lu­te­ly true that a lot of people are fo­cu­sed on the au­dience of one and how to in­fluence the au­dience of one,” said Mi­chael Steel, a ma­na­ging di­rec­tor at Wa­shing­ton-ba­sed Ha­mil­ton Place Stra­te­gies and a long­time GOP com­mu­ni­ca­tions ad­vi­ser.

Two spo­kes­wo­men for Fox News didn’t re­spond to re­quests to com­ment. 21st Cen­tu­ry FoxInc., parent of the Fox Net­works Group, shares com­mon ow­ner­ship with The Wall Street Jour­nal’s ow­ner, News Corp.

The ef­forts to get the pre­sident’s TV at­ten­tion go beyond etha­nol. Crea­tors of an ad sup­por­ting U.S. steel­wor­kers were plea­sant­ly sur­pri­sed when Mr. Trump twee­ted about the is­sue just mi­nutes af­ter the spot ai­red on “Fox & Friends” in ear­ly March. The ad – a ma­shup of foo­tage of Mr. Trump spea­king to the is­sue – ran for more than a week at a cost of $250,000. Mr. Trump du­ring that same time an­noun­ced ta­riffs on steel and alu­mi­num im­ports.

“It cer­tain­ly hel­ped that the pre­sident had a re­min­der of what he com­mit­ted to do,” said Scott Paul, pre­sident of the Al­liance for Ame­ri­can Ma­nu­fac­tu­ring.

In a Ju­ly me­mo to clients, lob­bying firm CGCN Group no­ted the im­por­tance of te­le­vi­sion as a means to reach both the pre­sident and his base of “middle-class and blue-col­lar vo­ters in middle Ame­ri­ca.”

“It is wi­de­ly ru­mo­red that Trump pays par­ti­cu­lar­ly close at­ten­tion to pro­grams like Han­ni­ty and Lou Dobbs To­night to mea­sure the pulse of this key de­mo­gra­phic,” the me­mo reads.

Ad re­ve­nue for the pro­grams Mr. Trump watches most clo­se­ly is on the rise, with Han­ni­ty ti­cking up to $18.8 mil­lion in April to June of this year, com­pa­red with $17.5 mil­lion in the se­cond quar­ter of 2016, ac­cor­ding to Kan­tar Me­dia, an ad­ver­ti­sing tra­cking ser­vice. “Fox & Friends” made $22 mil­lion in ad re­ve­nue in the se­cond quar­ter of this year, com­pa­red with $15.7 mil­lion in the per­iod of 2016, Kan­tar Me­dia says.

The in­ter­est ads fol­low Mr. Trump around, with se­ve­ral stra­te­gists saying they buy slots lo­cal to his Mar-a-La­go es­tate in Palm Beach, Fla., when he is there and in the New York area when he vi­sits his golf re­treat in Bed­mins­ter, N.J.

Stra­te­gists al­so say they tar­get ear­ly hours on MSNBC and CNN, net­works Mr. Trump has pu­bli­cly ma­li­gned but no­ne­the­less keeps tabs on. Mr. Trump has cal­led NBC’s “Sa­tur­day Night Live” “bo­ring and un­fun­ny” but spe­cial in­ter­ests have sought his ear there, too.

When House Spea­ker Paul Ryan sought to in­clude a bor­der ad­just­ment tax in his swee­ping tax ove­rhaul last year, the Na­tio­nal Re­tail Fe­de­ra­tion cut a pa­ro­dy in­fo­mer­cial ai­red du­ring SNL and on “Fox & Friends.”

“We were trying to prevent the pre­sident and Paul Ryan from get­ting on the same plan,” said Da­vid French, se­nior vice pre­sident of the re­tail fe­de­ra­tion. “We wan­ted to create a coun­te­rar­gu­ment for the pre­sident to consi­der. The goal was to get it seen by the pre­sident and some of his in­fluen­cers.”

Mr. Ryan even­tual­ly scut­tled the bor­der ad­just­ment tax idea, saying at the time that the ro­bust in­fluence ope­ra­tion against it played a role. Mr. Trump’s op­po­nents have al­so used te­le­vi­sion to reach him. In late Oc­to­ber last year, bil­lio­naire De­mo­crat Tom Steyer ki­cked off his drive to gin up pu­blic sup­port for im­pea­ching the pre­sident by ad­ver­ti­sing it on “Fox & Friends.”

The pre­sident took note of it, wri­ting on Twit­ter at 6:58 a.m. Eas­tern time the day the ad made its de­but, “Wa­cky & to­tal­ly un­hin­ged Tom Steyer, who has been figh­ting me and my Make Ame­ri­ca Great Again agen­da from the be­gin­ning, ne­ver wins elec­tions!”

Ke­vin Mack, lead stra­te­gist for Need to Im­peach, said the group pla­ced the ads on the Fox show “for the sole pur­pose of ha­ving Do­nald Trump see them.”

SI­PA PRESS

Pre­sident Trump tunes in re­gu­lar­ly to ‘Fox & Friends.’ From left, Steve Doo­cy, Ains­ley Ea­rhardt and Brian Kil­meade, the Fox News show’s co-hosts.

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