How to Maximize Your Media Investments Amidst a Tough Political Climate 

In the world of advertising and marketing, creating markets is the opportunity that is part of the responsibility we hold – to do this staying ahead of the curve with intentionality is essential. Q423 and 2024 bring forth unique challenges and opportunities with the convergence of political windows, the entertainment system at a standstill from WGA/SAG-AFTRA strikes, and one of the bright spots with the eagerly anticipated Summer Olympics. Strategic media planning and buying will need to adapt to these significant events to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness. 

Political Windows: A Time for Strategic Agility

Political windows, those periods of heightened political activity because candidates are entitled to specific legal protections, can significantly impact media planning and buying strategies. With upcoming elections, policy debates, and government transitions scheduled, these windows offer both advantages and challenges for advertisers.

  1. Target Audience Shifts: During political windows, there’s a shift in media consumption patterns. People engage more with news, debates, and political content. This creates opportunities for brands to align with relevant topics or values, but it also means they’ll need to find new ways to reach their usual target audiences. While most advertisers typically stick to weekday news programming, try looking at weekend newscasts, EN/LN (evening/late news) typically have less demand than the M-F programming. If news isn’t a must, it’s in most brand’s best interest to explore other dayparts. 
  2. Increased Competition: Remember, there’s only so much room at the Inn and when everyone is looking to get in… there simply won’t be enough beds for everyone. When ad space becomes more competitive as political campaigns flood the airwaves, prices for advertising will increase and trickle down to most mediums, and inventory availability is limited. Be prepared to adapt budgets and strategies to remain visible amidst the political wallpaper. This can look like targeting ROS (run of schedule) instead of fixed programming on broadcast television or expanding into other video mediums like CTV/OTT (CTV is still undervalued and underinvested by most). Also, look at unique digital, social or even traditional mediums like magazines who have more niche audiences that are more engaged.  
  3. Contextual Relevance: Finding the right balance between contextual relevance and avoiding appearing overly political can be a challenge. Brands should be sensitive to the political climate and ensure their messaging doesn’t inadvertently alienate potential customers. One way around this can look like focusing more on the younger end of your demographic during the heightened political windows, and then pull media levers to engage with the older end after the election. 

The Summer Olympics: A Global Advertising Extravaganza

The Summer Olympics, a major global event, offers a unique platform to showcase rich brand storytelling, to a massive and diverse audience. However, the Olympics also present some distinct challenges for media planning and buying – particularly in a political year. 

  1. Global Reach: The Olympics attract viewers locally, regionally, and from all over the world, providing an unparalleled opportunity for expanding an organization’s reach. An event like the Olympics is an opportunity for brands to connect with their audience on a deeper level. The Olympic games are just as much about the storytelling of the athletes as the games themselves. Consider tailoring the messages to resonate with diverse cultural backgrounds while maintaining a universal appeal around values and purpose. 
  2. Peak Competition: Everyone wants a piece of the action. With numerous brands, and political players, vying for attention during the 2024 Olympics, standing out becomes more challenging. Creativity with how you invest into this media opportunity is essential to make a lasting impression. Working on unique sponsorships whether you’re investing in specific DMA’s or nationally, is a good way to secure your place in the games when political advertising will be at nearing its height. Sponsorships vs a commercial spot buy can allow you to fly under the radar of political commercial rates. 
  3. Platform Diversity: In the digital age, the Olympics are broadcasted across various platforms, from traditional TV to streaming services and social media. Be creative with the investment strategy and develop a comprehensive cross-platform approach to ensure the message reaches the desired audience, regardless of the platform they’re using.

Adapting to the Dual Challenge

Successful media planning and buying during these events require adaptability, creativity, and strategic thinking. Here are some further quick tips for navigating this dual challenge:

  1. Stay Agile: Be prepared to adjust your strategies in response to changing political landscapes and consumer behavior.
  2. Timing Matters: Plan your campaigns carefully to leverage peak viewership during the Olympics or seize opportunities during political windows.
  3. Audience-Centric Content: Craft content that resonates with your target audience while remaining sensitive to the context of political events.
  4. Data-Driven Decisions: Leverage data analytics to understand how your campaigns are performing in real-time and make informed adjustments.

In conclusion, the upcoming political windows and the Summer Olympics represent both exciting opportunities to look forward to in 2024, and challenges for media planning and buying. By staying flexible, understanding your audience, and leveraging data-driven insights, advertisers can successfully navigate these dynamic periods and achieve remarkable results.

Here are some additional tips and vocabulary to know about placing media, particularly in broadcast, in political years. We originally posted the following on our website in 2019 and is still applicable in the upcoming political cycle.. 

* The FCC rules that broadcasters guarantee the lowest unit rate (LUR) 45 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election. This means that in that window (referred to as the political window), candidates get the same rate for buying one spot as most favored advertisers who get a bulk discount based on volume. It’s important to know that there is not one LUR for the station, they vary for each time in a daypart as the audience size varies program-to-program, which determines the value. For example, a rotator that is 5-7pm is different than a 5-530pm program-specific placement, as it falls into a different class. This is where the knowledge of daypart values can help. Daypart rotators can be just as effective during political windows as having a program-specific strategy. This is also the time when having a channel strategist and media buyer can help you decipher its value, as it corresponds to your campaign and business objective. These regulations impact every advertiser because a placement that might be purchased for $850 can be bumped out for anything that comes in equal or greater value. Some stations have a “first -in, last-one-out” philosophy to protect advertisers who invest and lock in placements early on in the season. For example, two advertisers are in Survivor for $850. Should a political ad be placed, one of those advertisers will be bumped and in some cases the station will bump the advertiser who came in later. This is why investing early is often beneficial.

* PACs and Super PACs are not under the same regulations, and stations are not required to offer the lowest unit rate – however these groups often have the deeper pockets and outbid for certain spots – preempting other advertisers.

* Political ads can be preempted, and although it’s rare for stations to preempt a candidate in the same class, it’s possible if the price is right.

* You can still post during political windows. Political advertising impacts inventory, not the buyer or the station’s ability to project ratings and/or impressions. While spots are never guaranteed to air – especially during political windows – media pros know that you are purchasing audience, not spots. If the schedule falls short on delivery, you can run under-delivery schedules even during a political window. You may hear stations say they “won’t” help you with a UD schedule, but that is negotiable.

Find out  when the political windows occur in your market. Additionally, look for what other PAC, Committee, or Issue are placing throughout the year that may impact outside of political windows. Finally, be sure about procedures for under-delivery, and what/if any weeks should be avoided outright.

By Chris Marine August 28, 2023