Politics and Media: What Marketers Need to Know

Aug 29, 2019

You hear that? That’s the churning sound of the political season on the horizon. And no course correction will change the inevitable conclusion. We’re headed straight for it. The only way out is straight through, and a confident point of view doesn’t hurt, either. There’s good news, though. We’ve been down this path before and we can help you navigate. 

No time to waste! Let’s get started.



When we think about the presidential election process, there are not many who address the impact it has on advertisers and their ability to generate their messages amid the swath of political messages hitting the airways. 

The impact on media focuses on affected states, both in the primary and general election cycles.  The mission for the primary is to win states and accumulate delegates.  For the general election it’s about accumulating enough electorates from the individual states to take the White House.  

It sounds simple enough, but this all costs a lot of money.  In fact, Kantar estimates a $6 billion aggregate spend toward the entire presidential election process.  

Much of this is starting now on social media, with democratic candidates vying to raise funds, while the current president extends his agenda.  The end result means political messages are being fed to social media users, along with posts from their friends, and paid content posts that we purchase for many of our clients.  

As we transition to primary season, the focus will be on the states.   Primaries start in February for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.  This leads to Super Tuesday on March 3, with primaries across 15 states.  

Within the 45-day windows for each of these primaries, political candidates and the issues behind them will flood the local media markets with their messages.  Costs will be higher.  And clearance may be a factor.  

These may include TV markets outside of these states if there is enough coverage to merit inclusion.  Examples would be Boston for the New Hampshire primary and Omaha for the Iowa primary.  



From our experience, there are four ways general advertisers can be affected by political marketing:


The supply of media is static, but the demand is increasing. Remember supply and demand curves from economics class?  Media prices will rise.  


With the finite supply of media impressions, clearance will be an issue.  It is common for local broadcast entities to pre-empt local advertisers who have negotiated low rates in favor of candidates or issues paying a higher rate.  The CTV/OTT platform is not expected to pre-empt, but quality impressions may grow scarce if not booked well in advance.  


This plays to the commercial content within the election cycle.  If you are fortunate enough to get a message to clear, it may run adjacent to political content.  We are seeing this today on social media.   


This point is most prevalent in the digital display world.  Political advertisers may pay a premium to get their message on the top half of the screen, where it is more likely to be viewed.  General advertisers may be pushed to screen areas less likely to be viewed.  

Political spending is forecasted along these lines:

  • Broadcast – 53%
  • Cable – 20%
  • Digital – 20%
  • Radio – 7%

Digital is forecasted to be the highest growth area since the last election cycle. This includes the connected TV platform, digital audio, social and display. Connected TV will see considerable growth as households continue to find alternative ways to view TV content.  

Local broadcast will continue to rule the roost, as it is still the leading medium for video consumption. Broadcast TV skews older, as does the voting public, and provides mass reach across households within a targeted state. 



Advertisers need to know when, where and how the political advertising flood will affect the media landscape amid the presidential election cycle. Plan accordingly. Don’t just fly through the storm. Adjust your message and your activation plan so it will resonate within the environment.