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March 9, 2012
Jockeying for Space Among Political Ads
 
Most brands and advertisers know that the ongoing fight for share of voice gets even tougher during a political year. The media world sees an influx of proposition and candidate advertising each political year, which makes an already cluttered media environment much busier. By law, the media has to make a certain amount of inventory available for political advertisers. The price of the media is at a level playing field for these political advertisers through specific set political rates. There isn’t a premium non-political advertisers can pay to guarantee their buys run. Every paying advertiser has the political landscape top of mind, but not many advertisers really know how it will affect their advertising initiatives.
 
Just about a month ago, one of our clients asked if we should be doing TV this year or even radio, for that matter, due to this year’s political spending. That sparked our interest to dig deeper and figure out the political landscape in the San Francisco DMA to share with our clients and use as we plan and buy media throughout 2012. 
 
To figure out this political puzzle, we took to our trusted relationships and connections within the local media. We talked to the top broadcast television stations and the local cable provider, as well as a mix of music and news/talk radio stations in the market. We asked for their predictions and forecasts on political spending, specific windows, time periods, and more. 
 
The first thing we discovered is that it’s evident that the marketplace will be more cluttered during the summer/fall timeframe due to the predicted onslaught of political messaging. We have heard that between $30MM to $50MM of incremental political advertising will be bought in this market alone within broadcast and cable television. We also found an additional $7MM to $9MM projected to be purchased in this market within radio.
 
Next, we found that 70% of the spending is likely to hit in the 3rd/4th quarter specifically. The first window is the primary; the second is the general election. Within these windows, there are two types of political spending, Candidate and Proposition. The Propositions in California are where we are likely to see a good amount of action. There are a slew of issues that include but are not limited to tobacco, term limits, labor/paycheck protection, and a bond to upgrade California water. 
 
So…what does all this mean? We don’t have to be scared of political spending. Local advertisers can be successful in a political year without spending 10% to 20% more. You just have to navigate the waters appropriately.

Laying in your buy early won’t do much for you, but it might help, specifically with radio. Television will likely be the biggest player for political spending, but it’s just a little too soon to know exactly how big of a political year it will be. Stations are predicting an increase in cost per points in the 10% to 15% range. Add on another layer, if automotive makes a comeback this year, and those cost per points will likely be closer to 15% more year over year.
 
If there are two things to know on HOW to buy in a political year, it’s these:
  • Figure out the political “windows” for TV and radio. There are 2 windows to be aware of: a Q2 window and a Q3/Q4 window. Each station has a slightly different take, but the general time frames are: mid-April through early June as well as early September through November 11. Buy around these windows if you can.
  • If you can’t buy around the windows, buy around the programming. Be aware of what formats or programming that will be impacted and avoid those. E.g. Local Broadcast TV News, Talk/News Radio, or cable news networks.

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Nick Fairbairn is Media Director at Engine Company 1, a media group that represents a mix of regional, national, and international clients. Some of these clients include The San Francisco 49ers, The Monterey Bay Aquarium, KGO-TV/ABC7, Jiffy Lube Bay Area, Panavision, and Mozilla Firefox. More information, contact: nfairbairn@enginecompanyone.com.
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