How Political Campaigns Affect Media

Regardless of which parties you vote for, the political campaigns can create significant media shortages for direct response marketers – particularly in prime time and news programming.

It comes as no surprise there are several states that are considered “undecided” when it comes to their political standings and depending on whom you ask that list can change. To list some of the obvious, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, and New Hampshire are a “sure thing”. DMA’s inside of these states will no doubt have additional pressure put on them in the form of elevated political ad spending from February off and on all the way through the elections in November.

The FCC’s Statutes and Rules on Candidate Appearances and Advertising, section 73.1942 titled “Candidate Rates” paragraph (i) states, “A candidate shall be charged no more per unit than the station charges its most favored commercial advertisers for the same classes and amounts of time for the same periods. Any station practices offered to commercial advertisers that enhance the value of advertising spots must be disclosed and made available to candidates on equal terms. Such practices include but are not limited to any discount privileges that affect the value of advertising, such as bonus spots, time-sensitive make goods, preemption priorities, or any other factors that enhance the value of the announcement.” For regular commercial advertisers, especially DRTV campaigns, this translates to an increase in rate and the elimination of all bonus spots or added value to aid in media performance.

Photo by Lucas Franco on Unsplash

A new report from advertising spending experts Borrell Associates predicts candidates, political parties, PACs and other groups will buy a record $11.4 billion in advertising during the 2016 election year, a whopping 20 percent increase over 2012. Add in the fact that 2016 is also a Summer Olympic year – and that spending from the automotive, pharmaceutical and retail industries is already projected to increase as much as 2.5 percent – we have a “perfect storm” of competitive factors for the supply and demand marketplace of paid media.

One factor to consider is when nearly every commercial break has multiple political ads with the underlying harsh tones, the often controversial techniques employed by political advertisers who seek votes at any cost, even including a degraded sense of public regard for the candidates and the electoral process. Perhaps the amount of negativity featured in political campaigns is designed to shrink the “market” rather than increase the sponsor’s relative share. Discouraging people from voting is much more feasible than persuading supporters of one candidate to vote for the opponent. Additional information and research can be found here

Advertisers who can penetrate into such commercial breaks possess the opportunity to break up the political debauchery – a very welcome relief to the television consumer whom may be at their wits end with the continual “campaign bashing” and when seeing a “normal” commercial, may very well respond with increased diligence. Another benefit would be running a spot with less clutter of other standard commercial ad loads, leading to increased recollection by the consumer ingesting the ad, the messaging of the ad can have a higher impact and resonation with the potential customer driving increased performance.

Photo by Jomar Thomason on Unsplash

The competition will be stiff during primetime and news programming, especially on the major news affiliates like ABC, CBS, and NBC. Your media partners should be well aware of these market conditions and should be able to provide insight into better planning, factoring in premium rates and penalties for impressions, and increased frequency of pre-emptions when higher-paying political advertisers hit the market. National cable news networks such as Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and CNBSC will also experience additional inventory pressure during this political year as well. With what we have experienced thus far in the political arena and especially during the debate coverage, there is no doubt a blurred line exists between entertainment and political news – either way, advertisers want to capitalize on the increased viewership that these types of networks have experienced.

The right media agency will recognize the marketplace changes, plan and forecast great options and opportunities for any TV campaign, and provide immediate alternatives to re-allocate budget when clearance issues arise to combat the rules set forth by our governing entity, the FCC. Like many states, individual markets, and even national cable and networks face more and more political spending this year, listen to your media buying partners and expect them to be quick and nimble in offering alternative opportunities for excellent performance and ROI for your TV campaigns.

Josh Pico

About the Author

Josh Pico is the Director of Media Buying for DirectAvenue and can be reached at:
Phone: (760) 579-4211

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