Media Planning to Win in Election Years


If it doesn’t feel like we’re almost always in the middle of an election cycle or gearing up for one, you may not be paying close enough attention. It chews up your social media feed, shouts at you on your commute and dominates whichever screen you choose as a refuge in the evening.

Nobody feels it more than marketers who need to navigate the complex world of media planning competing for placement with candidates for every office from township clerk to president. And the competition can be even more acute if your business relies on reaching consumers in a contested or (worst case) swing state in the general election.

The key is in diversifying your media plan to ensure you’re reaching your customers without having to outbid some campaign or special interest group with deeper pockets. Careful planning early in the process can prevent unexpected costs or preemption later in the game, particularly in that 45-day window before the general election.

A simple approach is to make sure you have a good media mix to target your consumers. One way to do this is to move out of higher-demand programming and cable networks that political ads will be buying up. New analytics help make this approach even more efficient. Using audience modeling, we can target the exact same consumers on other networks or programming to mirror the viewing habits we want. This also avoids putting your message in an environment where a flood of political ads sends consumers running out of the room at every commercial break.

There’s no need to run away from traditional broadcast during an election.  An option we can explore to put in the mix is sponsorships or sports packages, which are less pre-emptiable during election campaigns. While these come with time and budget commitments, they can complement your normal schedule to reach higher targeted-profile programming.

An important thing to remember is to make sure you have an open communication with your media partners. By staying ahead of issues, you can work out any bumps in the campaign in advance.

Streaming services—referred to in the trade as OTT or over-the-top—also present opportunities to communicate with your customers in a channel where election-year demand doesn’t create as much pressure.

Because political campaigns need to focus their efforts on likely voters, your planning can be nimbler and take advantage of opportunities they pass on or simply overlook. OTT channels also aren’t bound by regulations requiring them to offer candidates for political office their lowest unit rates (LUR)—which means there’s more room for negotiation.

Streaming audio channels offer many of the same advantages. Platforms like Spotify, Pandora or TuneIn deliver audiences that can be custom-targeted by both geography and interest, as well as by demographics.

Campaign commercials may interrupt your favorite show or clutter up your news feed, but a well-considered plan can make sure they don’t spoil your marketing.