4 Tips for Cutting Through the Advertising Clutter of Election Season

Although the 2016 election season is already in full swing, the media frenzy has only just begun. A $11.4 billion1 deluge of political advertisements is predicted to take over the radio airwaves, clog up TV commercial breaks, fill mailboxes and inboxes, and target internet users’ computers and devices. Available ad inventory will decrease while placement costs will skyrocket – both online and offline. So what’s an advertiser to do?

Here are a four tips that can help marketers vie effectively for consumers’ attention during political campaigns, maximize the impact of their advertising dollars, and stay on track to meet sales and acquisition goals during the upcoming election year.

1. Shift media dollars away from TV during key election time periods.

Consider shifting TV spend during key election windows – 45 days before primaries and 60 days before the general election. Political ads saturate the media during these periods, which are the only times when presidential candidates’ campaigns are legally allowed to advertise. Political ads supported by organizations not directly associated with a candidate’s campaign (including Super PACs), however, are not limited by these rules. Alternate media opportunities that are impacted less by political ads are a better use of ad dollars during these peak periods.

2. Beware of premium media rates in battleground states.

Limit marketing spend in hotly contested battleground states where political advertisers historically focus. These seven states, where no single candidate or political party has overwhelming support, include Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia. TV inventory in these states, as well as online cost-per-click pricing for search, social, and display ads, will see significant price increases due to high demand. Mailboxes will also become especially cluttered due to an increase in direct mail spend in these areas.

3. Plan ahead and buy early to control media costs.

Secure ad placements well before the pre-election media rush. As the general election draws closer, locking in ad inventory will become more competitive and expensive compared to similar media cycles in non-election years. Understanding the historical costs of local TV time slots – where political ads take precedence over those from regular marketers – can help brands pay appropriate rates to solidify their positions building up to the election.

4. Shift to CRM and retargeting tactics during peak political advertising periods.

Avoid competing with political ads altogether by using customer databases to cross-sell and up-sell via email and direct mail while retargeting website visitors in digital display, search and social media. Nurturing database leads and taking advantage of targeted content marketing opportunities lets brands engage audiences without maxing out marketing budgets to compete with political advertisers.

This fall – as with elections past – the 2016 political race will dominate offline and online media. But that doesn’t mean that brands have to pause their marketing spend altogether. Instead, re-evaluating media placements and timing can help brands take advantage of alternate opportunities that can maximize the return of their marketing dollars.

1“2015 to 2016 Political Advertising Outlook,” Borrell Associates, August 2015.

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