Navigating the digital advertising space this election season


Maura Noonan

3 Minute Read

Some absolute truths in life: the sky is blue; the grass is green; and every four years, presidential election season comes and shakes up the advertising world. As marketers, it’s our job to advise our clients during this time, helping them navigate strategies for the days and weeks leading up to election day. In years past, our conversations were typically centered around traditional media, especially television, when inventory tightens and rates go up due to the influx of political ads. This year’s election cycle, though, is shaping up to be unique because of the anticipated impact on digital advertising. And we can expect these effects to be noticeably more dramatic than we’ve seen in previous presidential and off-year elections.

A Year Like No Other

Every election season is unique. But with the presence of a global pandemic, 2020 is shaping up to be one we remember forever. Candidates are spending on campaign advertising at a record rate this year. Forbes calls this year’s election the longest and most expensive of all-time. Kantar expects that spending will reach $7 billion, with digital media forecasted to receive $1.8 billion of that total—social media being a key medium in that digital toolbox.

While we know TV ad buys will ramp up closer to election day, we’ve noticed that candidates have been using digital as a testing ground. The digital space serves as a quick and relatively inexpensive way for candidates to test out campaign messaging. Because of this, we can expect costs to rise across the board on digital channels, with an especially strong impact on CPMs (cost per impression), making it more difficult to get through to your target audience.

Helping You Choose

Does all of this mean that brands should stop advertising during October and the early days of November? Not necessarily. If your business can afford to go dark for a few weeks, it’s definitely best to stay out of the clutter, but for those that need to remain visible to consumers, this is the year to really take a look at your audiences. We recommend investing in some media research to understand where your audiences consume media. Consider consolidating your advertising dollars into top-performing channels/platforms. If you are going to pay a premium for placement this fall, it’s best to ensure that you are in the right places to maximize your investment.

At FARM, we always identify insights before beginning any project, and our recommendation for your media planning is to research the best placements for your consumer audience. Shift your budgets to those top performers, even if that means relying on just a single channel to deliver your message this election cycle. If that decision seems daunting to you, and you find that you need help making a choice, drop us a line or give us a call.

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