With political TV ad spending predicted to soar to $4.4 billion during this year’s federal races, penetrating the airwaves with your own advertising message can be a more challenging endeavor than in non-election seasons. The good news for non-political advertisers? The bigwigs wouldn’t bother investing in TV ads if they didn’t work. (They absolutely do, 87 percent of people over 18 see TV ads, according to Nielsen.) The bad news? They may not work the way you expect them to. Consider us your at-the-ready (advertising) campaign advisors during this tricky time. Here’s what you need to know.

A Different Kind of Campaign Strategy

The homestretch between now and November is a game-changer in more ways than one. Sure, the Oval Office is getting a new occupant, but there’s much more at stake — at least if your primary agenda is making the most of your advertising dollars, that is. To the rescue? Solutions aimed not at the misguided attempt to sustain the status quo in an anything-but-status quo market, but instead at navigating the dynamics of an irregular market without dropping candidate-level coin.


Five Savvy Strategies for Election Season Advertising

So what can you do to maintain your presence in the marketplace in the months ahead?

  1. For starters, avoid frontloading your advertising during key political windows, such as airings of hotly contested local primaries. Why? Because while American eyes may be tuned in at this time, they’re likely to be on advertising overload. The result? Your message might get lost or even bumped altogether.
  2. While conventional “TV news” slots may also be inundated by political candidate advertising, they’re also DVR-proof.  In other words,  avoiding these windows for the 16 weeks of primary and general election advertising may ultimately cost you viewers. So what can you do? Supplement by advertising during alternative time frames and via other channels to make sure that you reach your desired demographic. For example, using niche cable networking within your target market stretches your marketing dollars while still allowing you to deliver tailored messages to your sought-after audience.
  3. Buy early! Locking in your schedule not only secures inventory and better rates, but also reduces your chances of getting bumped. This does mean being realistic, however. If rates have risen +25% since last quarter’s buy, it may be time to assess rate adjustments and overall spending.
  4. Politicians may know how to work a crowd, but forward-thinking advertisers know that media representatives are the real power players when it comes to securing your advertising campaign. Work with an advertising agency that can leverage their buying power and relationships with media representatives. In doing so, you increase the chances that they’ll protect your advertising schedule whenever possible. Even seemingly small details can mean big returns.
  5. Despite your best efforts, your advertising may still end up being preempted or bumped entirely. Prepare for this inevitability by overbuying advertising across multiple time slots. If you get bumped, your bases will still be covered. Further assure your media present by having a back-up time slot or network at the ready. Get bumped from a prime time slot? A shift to late night mitigates your losses. And remember: media buys can always be canceled up to two weeks out.


Beyond Broadcast Television

At least one thing remains the same when advertising during election season: Relying on a single advertising medium is the equivalent of political suicide. Our picks for maximizing both your reach and spend? Local cable television and radio.


The former gives you access to greater time slot availability amidst growing political attention — particularly on news and niche networks. The latter also yields a higher volume of available space thereby decreasing the likelihood of both schedule disruptions and rate increases. In fact, radio captures a mere 14 percent of political spending. (After all, baby-kissing doesn’t have nearly the same impact on radio as it does on TV.)


The takeaway? The more you diversify your advertising across broadcast television, cable and radio, the more you stand to gain in terms of both frequency and overall reach.


As if dealing with the constant onslaught of political stumping isn’t already enough, you now have to deal with the impact of the 2016 presidential election on your advertising spend? We’ll spare you the spin and put it directly: Yes. The best thing you can do to prepare for the impending blitz of political advertising? Think like a politico to shore up your own advertising strategies and remain in the race.