By Mark Buchele, Media Director at Gragg Advertising
As we move headlong into the 2012 election cycle, estimates from Kantar Media place a record $3.2 billion in television advertising will be spent by political candidates and related political organizations. This is an anticipated 52% increase in television spending from the 2008 presidential election. The tremendous spike can be attributed to the landmark “Citizens United” ruling by the United States Supreme Court in 2010 that protected corporate and union funding of political advertising under the First Amendment. In short, there is no limit on how much can be contributed to candidates or advertising when related to special interest groups. The impact of the ruling was immediate; the 2010 political season saw a record $2.4 billion spent on television advertising from political advertisers. This is staggering when considering 2012 was a non-presidential election cycle.
The political windows for primaries (occurring January – June) are 45 days prior to the election date, and 60 days for the general election (September 5 – November 6). After an analysis of data from Kantar Media, political advertising accounts for over 50% of all TV advertising expenditures in the final weeks of an election cycle. This is important information for advertisers to know because in the weeks leading up to a political election political advertising will take precedence over all other advertising. This could lead to timeslots being unavailable and could also result in non political advertisements being bumped all together. Additionally, advertising rates increase during election cycles because the demand is high and so are political advertising budgets.
Clearly, the third and fourth quarter broadcast cycle will feel pressure. The election cycle is unpredictable and knowing what will become hot button topics is impossible. Regional markets will vary based on how heavily competitive the election race appears to be and television advertising will be bought and sold in short timeframes. This happens because when new polling data is released groups react quickly in hopes of swaying public opinion by placing last minute advertisements. Political advertisers also look at times when television viewing is at its highest in order to capture the attention of a general audience, leading to heavy, broad-based consumption of advertising timeslots. It is this combination of increased spending that leads to:
- Advertising rate increases (between 7-15%) during the key election periods
- Availability of more advertisements throughout the day than available timeslots
- Heavy pre-emption of existing advertising schedules
- Viewer fatigue from the barrage of political ads affecting overall ad attentiveness
In order to mitigate the impact of political advertising, be aware of market level solutions. There are several tactics one can undertake when looking to maintain a presence in the marketplace but not spend more than necessary to do so:
· Avoid key political windows: schedule big events or important launches away from highly contested local primaries so messages don’t get lost in the advertising overload, or worse, bumped altogether. Relying on only one advertising medium during an election is a critical mistake that can impact the chance of success.
· Avoid “TV news” timeslots that are highly sought after by political candidates. Think carefully about the target audience and look to capture them in other timeframes or media. For example, using a group of niche cable network within a target can stretch marketing dollars further and allow for tailored messaging to specific ages and genders.
· Prepare and plan for advertising to be pre empted or bumped within political windows. Overbuying is a strategy that ends up keeping a portion of advertising in play across various timeslots even when some spots get bumped. Media buys can always be cancelled, generally 2 weeks out if necessary. Have a back up network or timeslot that the advertising can comfortably shift into. For example, primetime timeslots that are shifted to late night timeslots may be acceptable.
· Work with media representatives and stay in touch. Being available to take advantage of last minute openings will work to the advantage of an advertising campaign. Being flexible when working with media representatives can lead to them protecting the advertising schedule when available. Paying vendor bills on time does matter. Finally, have the advertisement placement ordered and the creative shipped ahead of time makes everybody’s job go smoother.
· Buy early! Lock in schedules to secure inventory and better rates. Schedules placed further out will be among the last ones bumped. Be realistic and understand that if the rates rose +25% since the buy last quarter, it would be wise to have a conversation about how much of that schedule will likely appear on schedule and discuss if rate adjustments and spending are necessary.
· Local Cable TV: Even with growing political attention (particularly on news/niche networks), the greater timeslot availability offers advertisers an easy option from broadcast TV stations.
· Digital: Digital video consumption has seen double digit growth. This is an alternative media worth researching because of the large timeslot availability and the capability to geographically target the audience.
· Radio: An estimated 14% of political spending is captured in radio, but many political ads target News/Talk related programming. This leaves a higher volume of available space on most stations and means this medium is less impacted by rate increases and schedule disruptions.
· Outdoor: Especially when combined with radio this can be a powerful tool that creates immediate awareness when correctly executed. Allow for plenty of lead time to secure desired billboards, create artwork and install the billboards. Summer is typically a high demand season so plan early to get the number of units needed to make the impact.
· Print: Only 5% of political advertising is spent on print media, so while the reach in this medium is lower than television there is little impact on availability during political windows. This is great news for many clients, especially those who heavily rely heavily on direct mail, display advertising, inserts, etc. This means there should be little to no major impact on rates.
There is no magic solution and each plan should be tailored to meet the timing, objectives and needs of each advertiser. The best strategy is to create a plan, release your budget early and lock down timeslots. Waiting until the last minute to book orders will cost time, money, and revenue from unrealized sales.
Mark Buchele has over 18 years experience working as a media buyer and planner and has worked on campaigns such as Nike, Wendy’s and Sonic Drive-In. He currently serves as media director at Gragg Advertising, a full service, direct marketing agency in Kansas City, Missouri.
2012 PRIMARY SCHEDULE
- January 3: Iowa
- January 10: New Hampshire
- January 21: South Carolina (Republican), Nevada (Democratic)
- January 28: South Carolina (Democratic)
- January 31: Florida
- February 4: Nevada (Republican)
- February 4-11: Maine Caucuses (Republican)
- February 7: Colorado (Republican), Minnesota (Republican)
- February 21: Wisconsin
- February 28: Arizona, Michigan
- March 3: Washington (Republican)
- March 6 (SUPER TUESDAY): Alaska (Republican), Colorado (Democratic), Georgia, Idaho (Republican), Massachusetts, Minnesota (Democratic), North Dakota (Republican), Oklahoma,Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wyoming (Republican)
- March 7: Hawaii (Democratic)
- March 10: Kansas (Republican)
- March 11: Maine (Democratic)
- March 13: Alabama, Hawaii (Republican), Mississippi, Utah (Democratic)
- March 17: Missouri (Democratic)
- March 20: Illinois
- March 24: Louisiana
- April 3: Maryland, Washington DC, Wisconsin
- April 14: Idaho (Democratic), Kansas (Democratic), Nebraska (Democratic), Wyoming (Democratic)
- April 15: Alaska (Democratic), Florida (Democratic), Washington (Democratic)
- April 24: Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island
- May 5: Michigan (Democratic)
- May 8: Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia
- May 15: Nebraska, Oregon
- May 22: Arkansas, Kentucky
- June 5: California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota (Democratic), South Dakota
- June 12: Ohio
- June 26: Utah (Republican)
2012 GENERAL ELECTION: November 6, 2012
There will be U.S. Senate races that will impact 33 states. If it is an open race, then both parties will be selecting a candidate in the primary season – meaning more pressure from political spending. The party of the incumbent is listed if they are planning to run again:
- Arizona – OPEN RACE
- California – (D)
- Connecticut – OPEN RACE
- Delaware – (D)
- Florida – (D)
- Hawaii – OPEN RACE
- Indiana – (R)
- Maine – (R)
- Maryland – (D)
- Massachusetts – (R)
- Michigan – (D)
- Minnesota – (D)
- Mississippi – (R)
- Missouri – (D)
- Montana – (D)
- Nebraska – (D)
- Nevada – (R)
- New Jersey – (D)
- New Mexico – OPEN RACE
- New York – (D)
- North Dakota – OPEN RACE
- Ohio – (R)
- Pennsylvania – (D)
- Rhode Island – (D)
- Tennessee – (R)
- Texas – OPEN RACE
- Utah – (R)
- Vermont – (I)
- Virginia – OPEN RACE
- Washington – (D)
- West Virginia – (D)
- Wisconsin – OPEN RACE
- Wyoming – (R)
All 435 Congressional seats will be in play for 2012. NOTE: This will be the first congressional election using districts that have been apportioned based on the 2010 U.S. Census. This means that there may be some districts that have been re-drawn to make a long-term incumbent at risk. In addition, some states have gained/lost districts as a result of updated population data.
There will be 11 states affected by gubernatorial (governor) elections in 2012.
- DELAWARE – (D)
- INDIANA – OPEN RACE
- MISSOURI – (D)
- MONTANA – OPEN RACE
- NEW HAMPSHIRE – (D)
- NORTH CAROLINA – (D)
- NORTH DAKOTA – (R)
- UTAH – (R)
- VERMONT – (D)
- WASHINGTON – OPEN RACE
- WEST VIRGINIA – OPEN RACE