Ad Buying

TV Buys In An Election Year

Amanda HeadshotBy: Amanda Fiore

Do you know what political ads could be doing to your TV buy?

2016 has proved be a year of political frenzy, to say the least. As the presidential election comes into full swing, so do the political advertising competitions, especially when it comes to television.

Time and time again, political campaigns with sizeable broadcast budgets can tighten up TV markets, leaving limited inventory, bumped spots and increased costs in their wake.

Political advertising is anticipated to reach $4.4 billion in 2016 and is expected to permeate online streaming services in an attempt to reach a younger demographic. However, before asking the client for more broadcast dollars or shifting media channels to avoid the risk of political preemption, advertisers must first understand how political candidates are able to steal the broadcast show.

The Federal Communications Commission is responsible for setting up the political advertising rules that everyone must play by. An ad is qualified as a political one if it is a spot or program which involves a candidate’s “use.” This use is any positive appearance of a candidate, either by their identifiable voice or picture. Most commonly, it is a candidate advocating their campaign for the upcoming election.

Federal candidates are the most powerful in the political advertising world, as all stations are required to accept ads from candidates running for Federal office. These candidates are also entitled to the lowest rates in for that particular time slot during political protection periods (45 days prior to a primary and 60 days prior to a general election). The lowest rate unit or LUR is the dollar amount that is offered or charged by the station to commercial advertisers in the same time class. And while these political ads may preempt other commercial ads in the same time slot, often the only way to mitigate the risk of preemption is to pay a premium.  Political ads can bump a commercial advertiser out of a rotation, and if there are enough of them, paying more for specific placements may be the only way to appear when and where a commercial advertisers desires to be.

If a spot gets bumped there is not much an advertiser can do but to except the makegood from the station.  Although the makegood is completely out of the advertiser’s hands, in terms of when it will air and during what program, it is reassuring that the spot will get the airtime back.

Although political advertising impacts available television inventory and can throw a wrench in perfectly planned campaigns, it is worth noting ways to avoid the political advertising chaos.

It is important for television buyers to understand the difference between themselves and political television buyers; both are trained differently and embody different buying techniques. While brand buyers will strategically plan for specific GRP goals, political advertisers may heavy up on specific geography in support of upcoming elections in a moment’s notice. Understanding how political ads are planned and bought will help brand advertisers steer clear of potential last minute preemptions during political protection periods. In addition, advertisers can implement an integrated marketing approach, utilizing non-broadcast channels like print and digital during political windows. It always makes sense to have a backup plan, particularly for when spot TV inventory becomes tight at a moment’s notice.

This year’s political frenzy has the potential to cause chaos for television spots and those who plan them. As inventory seems to disappear from stations and appear in the hands of political candidates, advertisers seem to be at a disadvantage. However, broadcast planners and buyers must understand these crucial political protection periods and plan accordingly  to stay afloat as the 2016 presidential election nears.

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