Will Political Ad Spend Mean Boom Or Bust For Commercial Advertisers?

AdExchanger Politics” is a regular column tracking developments in the 2020 political campaign cycle.

Today’s column is written by Josh Hare, senior vice president at Viant.

Looking forward to 2020, the influx of political advertising dollars will have a substantial impact on how commercial brands can effectively reach audiences.

The equal-time rule created by the Federal Communications Commission means that if any candidate for office wants to buy airtime, they can do so at the lowest rate – so any commercial advertiser that may have been slotted in should expect a make-good. It’s no wonder that historically many advertisers, especially those buying late news and prime-time air spots, reduce their spending because they expect they are not going to get the schedule that they paid for.

But slowing down an advertising campaign may not be the best strategy. A Stanford University study found that “exposure to political advertising in general – and negative political advertising in particular – strengthens viewers’ relative confidence in commercial advertising.”

So leave the mudslinging to politicians, and reap the benefits of a more receptive audience.

While a more receptive audience might be within reach, this still leaves advertisers with the challenge of securing enough inventory to actually get to them. Thankfully, there are workarounds to reach audiences, so that does not mean advertisers should put their campaigns on hold.

Connected TV

It is getting harder to reach audiences, and with political advertisers appropriating valuable ad space from commercial advertisers, the targeting and measurement capabilities of connected TV (CTV) can be a supplement for traditional television.

But this is a crowded part of the ecosystem that advertisers must navigate, with different audiences seeking the same live programming across different – and sometimes multiple – platforms. The difficulty marketers face is handling the increased complexity of a much more fragmented landscape.

Before political ad spend reaches its peak, advertisers must understand how to integrate multiple streaming services, audiences, ad formats and devices into their campaigns. The key here is leveraging data-driven insights from multiple sources to correctly target the right consumers across platforms with relevant information.

Know the audience

With the right insights – for example, knowing which homes are in the market for certain products or whether they buy a competitor’s products – can help advertisers effectively market to them on other channels.

Let’s take a look at news, traditionally the strongest programming type. Local news and cable networks are going to rake in the most political dollars, bumping commercial advertisers that might have bought time. If marketers know what households watch, such as the local evening news or talking heads on cable, they can target those households on other devices, channels or CTV.

For example, CPG marketers can use Gracenote or Inscape Data Services to identify households with heavy news viewers. The CPGs can cross-reference their own data with those partners to learn what CPG products the households buy, then target those homes with specific ads on nonpolitically satiated programs.

Where television offers a traditionally broad demographic approach, digital’s ability to reach audiences with greater accuracy enables advertisers to target consumers on a one-to-one basis and reach audiences not exposed to brand creative.

Beyond the news

News is key programming, but the news is especially hard to buy during the lead-up to an election. Automatic content recognition (ACR) technology, however, enables you to know what households watch, so you can target those households on other devices or channels to ensure they are exposed. ACR technology can help advertisers reach local audiences, which helps brands target consumers in areas where local news airtime may be affected by a rise in political ad spend. It enables advertisers to retarget people in different DMAs if they were or were not exposed to commercials.

For example, marketers should leverage ACR data to understand which households watch early or late news, where political advertising spending is usually at its highest. From there, marketers can target those consumers as they engage with CTV programming or OTT content across their devices.

Without a doubt, the 2020 election season will impact an advertiser’s campaign strategy. But if marketers prepare, they can not only reach the same audience on other channels beyond TV, but that audience may be even more receptive.

Follow Viant (@viant_tech) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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