Buyer Beware: Political Advertising And Local Media in 2014



Brace yourself, as we enter the 2014 mid-term election cycle, for the larger impact political advertising will have on local media markets. Now that those high-profile court cases have removed many restrictions on spending, there will be no shortage of deep-pocketed advertisers fighting it out for media inventory this year.

“How bad can it be?” you may be thinking. “After all, it’s not a presidential election year.” Expect a crowd. A big crowd.

There will be U.S. Senate races in 33 states. If it’s an open race, both parties will be selecting a candidate during the primary – creating more competition for inventory.  As usual, all 435 Congressional seats will also be in play. And there will be gubernatorial elections in 38 states, many coinciding with Senate races.

To complicate matters further, nearly 60% of all funding is coming from out-of-state sources. Case in point: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-TN) battle to neutralize Tea Party attacks during the primary drew over $10 million of out-of-state money.

What’s more, Harmelin’s Media’s analysis of TV data from Kantar Media shows that political advertising accounts for nearly 50% of all spot expenditures in the final weeks of an election.

All of which indicates that media buyers and clients can expect serious challenges once the mudslinging begins:

  • Rate increases (between 12%-18% for local broadcast TV)
  • Inventory squeezes on all TV dayparts, and especially in early morning, early news, late news, early fringe and prime access
  • Pre-emptions of existing schedules
  • Issue advertisers paying premiums to guarantee their placement, bumping your clients from their ideal slots
  • New pressures on targeted digital media too, now that it’s not the best kept secret
  • Viewer fatigue from the political barrage

What can we do to mitigate the effect of political spending on spot TV? Here are some practical ways to lessen the impact.

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