2020 will see $10 billion in political advertising spending – and a 45% increase in television volume. Local TV stations stand to reap the lion’s share of that revenue, but how can they assure core advertisers that they will still be taken care of when the dust settles after the election year?
Plan ahead to help mitigate the impact to local advertisers
There are several ways stations can help mitigate the impact to local advertisers – start by planning ahead:
Know what races will be active in your state/market in addition to the Presidential race so you can anticipate any inventory issues and plan ahead for them.
You should also research which races in your market may have particular importance to the national landscape. For example, if you have a U.S. Senate seat with a vulnerable incumbent, and the Democrats consider that seat key to flipping control of the Senate, you’re much more likely to see heavy and consistent spending throughout the year, as long as the polls show the race is competitive.
Look at the major issue advertisers and what their plans are for the year.
Similar to the point above, there may be information available that can tell you the geographic importance of your market, whether there are politicians that represent your state/market who are key influencers of legislation on the issue, which can also help you better anticipate inventory.
Create a pricing plan that is flexible and that you can communicate with local advertisers in advance.
By doing this, you can say, if the money comes in heavy, here’s what the pricing may look like – likewise, if the political is less than expected, the rates may be lower.
Local strategies for your most important advertisers
Once your plan is ready to be put into action, focus on a few local strategies for your key advertisers:
Start having conversations now with your largest advertisers.
Particularly with those who drive the lowest rates, as they will be the most vulnerable. They may have the flexibility to move their budget to front load spending during the months of lighter political spending so as to minimize their vulnerability to pre-emption closer to the election.
Encourage your local advertisers to focus on programming that may be in less demand by political advertisers.
Programming such as prime time, late nights, weekend programming, etc., may be in less demand by political advertisers while Local News and Big Ticket sports, particularly inside the political candidate windows, are most in demand.
Take advantage of your other platforms.
In today’s environment, it’s becoming more and more common to sell media on an impression basis rather than on rating points. Most media companies have solutions like OTT and streaming impressions that provide a safe harbor from political displacement because they’re immune to pre-emption and the rules of political engagement that apply to broadcast TV (Lowest Unit Rate and Equal Access) don’t currently apply to digital platforms like OTT/streaming video platforms. And, at the end of the day, an ad impression served in a streaming program is TV advertising, which is an easy transition for your clients to make.
Have a client communication plan.
Bottom line – make sure your salespeople, or whoever is responsible for makegoods, are staying on top of informing your clients about pre-empts in real time. Don’t let them be surprised by an invoice where 50% or more of their spots were pre-empted and no one at the station told them about it.
Most clients understand the reality of heavy political advertising. They just need to be kept up to date and offered solutions wherever possible – and you need to demonstrate that you care about their business and are doing the best you can to do right by them.
Want to discuss this topic further? Need advice on a strategy? Let’s talk.