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Political Year Survival Kit

Here We Go Again

…another political year that creates havoc for clients and media buyers alike. Every four years, we vote senior leaders into office. Every four years, we get exposed to a countless number of political ads that convey big dreams and big promises, and how they are going to make our government more credible, profitable, and compassionate. I apologize if I sound pessimistic, but I think I’m speaking for all media buyers when I say I’m counting down until November 3, 2020. 

Face the Facts

Kantar Media predicts that the ad spending for the US federal office elections to be over $6 billion on paid media placements this election (that’s a little under $20 per US citizen).1

Advertising Analytics & Cross Screen Media projects that political spending will grow 57%, with ads doubling from 2018 to 2020, and a greater share than ever directed toward digital channels.2 The breakdown of media spending across platforms looks like this:

  • 73% or $4.4B will come on traditional media (broadcast television, cable, and radio). That’s more than eight million broadcast airings of political ads.
  • 24% or $1.6B will come on digital video (much of which will be on Facebook and Google).

The national election cycles follow predictable patterns, with the lowest spending in June and July, a steady build in August and September, and a steep October peak. California moved its presidential and state primary to Super Tuesday, March 3, which will likely cause us to see much more activity in the first quarter in advertising spending. In other words, there will be a higher demand on the inventory, higher rates during the political window, and lower room for adjustments.

Survival Tips for Marketers

Feeling overwhelmed yet? Luckily, I’ve been doing this for a while and have picked up a few tips along the way. Here are four key points to help media buyers and advertisers survive 2020:

  1. Plan and buy ahead with quarterly or annual buys with a contingency plan for make goods. This locks in most campaigns with current spot inventory.
  2. Look at alternatives. This includes ordering broader rotators vs. single programs. The station’s lowest unit rate usually applies to a specific program and the station book at the broader timeframe at a lower rate but same program. Evaluate alternate platforms such as OTT (over-the-top) streaming video, YouTube, and digital videos, which are good ways to reach the audience and bypass the oversaturated broadcast market. Although political budgets are projected to increase the demand and cost in OTT, the view has more control of the content. Besides, I think many of us will be trying to run away from the non-stop political messaging, opening up more options. It just might be time for me to start walking instead of couch sitting.
  3. Plan your major campaigns and promotions around the political windows. This is the 45 days prior to the primary and 60 days prior to the presidential election where political candidates either get the lowest spot rates of any unpaid advertising or they pay 10 times the rate to bump you out. You can bet that my campaigns will start promptly in March and November.
  4. Have a back-up plan. If you have good relationships with your reps, they will take care of you. They don’t make any money off political advertising so they want your campaigns to succeed as much as you do. Don’t be afraid to talk to your reps to establish plans for any spots that are pre-empted or fall out; decide whether make goods should stay with the program or move across platforms. Any plans should be communicated with the rest of the team and approved through the client to make sure there aren’t any surprises.

If there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s that the key to surviving in the advertising world during a political campaign is to expect that the unexpected will probably happen. If you’re new to the game, buckle up and learn as much as you can. Be patient, be kind, and go for a walk.

JUDY SOPER, Senior Media Buyer

PS: Did I mention US Census advertising will be running at the same time? 😉