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Friday, July 13, 2012

A Tactical Suggestion for the 2012 Presidential Campaign

A young media planner based in the American Midwest contacted me yesterday. He had a few questions about the 2012 Presidential race and its effect on TV pricing in spot markets. The core issue is that he has a lot of spot market TV buys coming up for a key client this fall. Many, by sheer luck or bad luck, happen to fall in what the media pundits are calling the “battleground states.”

I have to be careful to disguise this fine young man’s identity. Let us say, for example, that he will be planning strategy for his important client in Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia and North Carolina (other battleground states at this writing would include Florida (natch), New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada and perhaps Pennsylvania). As the campaign wears on, the list of authentic battleground states will shift a bit as polls get more definitive.

After we e-mailed back and forth a bit, I got in touch with a few people in the states where he would be executing plans. Candidly, they were licking their chops. One stated that pricing would be up 40-50% by September and October for some pretty indifferent inventory. Another stated that he was having scheduling difficulties NOW as Political Action Committee (PAC) money came in backing both candidates with eye-popping budgets.

I got back to my new friend and advised the following:  Don’t buy spot TV in the heavy battleground markets this fall. My logic is pretty simple. If the pressure on key inventory is such that prices rise by 50% over normal rates, you are asking your TV advertising to work awfully hard. Additionally, this young man is making a name for himself by putting together some very nicely wrought media plans. The buys to execute these plans will likely never see the light of day as pre-emptions by either the campaigns or PACS will totally disrupt the carefully designed weekly media weights baked in to the original plans (Federal law states that political advertising must always clear if the advertiser provides upfront money. Previously scheduled commercial advertising is often “pre-empted” by the political dollars).

This is a hard thing to tell clients. You may have to put them in media that does not have a good track record for them. Or, you may miss supporting a key sales period for some advertisers. But, your odds of successfully executing a spot TV campaign are really low this year in many battleground markets. On top of this, the agency you work for may lose income if you defer spending to 2013.

So, you need to look at each market separately. Maybe you can use radio plus a digital option in some Designated Market Areas (DMA’s). Or, local cable plus radio although sophisticated campaigns such as these are using specific cable channels to great effect given the narrow demographic appeals of some channels. Regional sports is also an area which often dodges the political bullet but it is hard to build a total campaign on regional sports working largely on its own for a brand.

This fall will be interesting and I am glad that I do not live in a battleground state or where there will be a hotly contested US Senate seat as well. In that case, I might stick to Netflix, Hulu, PBS, and Turner Classic Movies until after the election.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

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