Political Advertisers’ Impact on Brands

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As the upcoming election rapidly approaches, a surge of political ad dollars will influence how brands can effectively reach their audiences — and will likely present both new challenges and opportunities for brand marketers.

A recent report from eMarketer found that political ad spend will reach $6.89 billion in the 2019/2020 election period. This cycle’s spending is 63.3% higher than spend in the 2015/2016 season, showcasing a significant uptick in competition for brand marketers. That said, political advertisers are becoming savvier, expanding their breadth and scale into additional channels and further encroaching on brands’ digital bread and butter.

Here are a few ways political ad spend will impact brand marketers’ approach and how they can adjust their strategies so they don’t lose momentum in the coming months.

Follow The Money

Traditionally, TV is the main stage for political ad spend. This season’s political TV spend will account for as much as 3.2% of all TV advertising and 66% of all political ad spending. Those are substantial figures.

In addition to TV, political advertisers will push heavily into digital channels. Advertising Analytics noted that from May 24 through June 7, the Biden campaign spent $6.8 million on Facebook and Google; the Trump campaign spent $6.7 million. For the broader two-and-a-half-month period, from March 3 through May 21, overall ad spend for Trump and Biden was equal, with the Trump campaign reaching $24.6 million across digital and traditional channels and Biden reaching $24.3 million.

Despite the apparent heavy spending, fundraising is down this year, primarily due to the pandemic. Political advertisers are looking to be smarter and more precise with their ad dollars. They’re looking to invest in areas that have better targeting and engagement capabilities, specifically other social and mobile platforms.

Brand advertisers must account for this and proactively adjust their campaigns.

Take a Page From The Political Playbook

Political advertisers’ push into digital media, on top of their traditional TV spend, not only helps ensure more engagement around their efforts, it’s also an exponentially more budget-friendly and customizable environment. Think about it — to create well-produced video ads, it takes a skilled crew to write, film, and edit the spot.

Digital provides a platform that can be tailored on the fly; traditional TV or canvas-based out-of-home ads cannot be adjusted so quickly. We’re living in a time when curated messages for particular locations are critical. Digital ensures the right messaging is used in the right market, ultimately bringing more value and relevant insights to audiences.

Brand advertisers need to use this approach if they aren’t already. For example, as Covid’s impact across the US is different by city and region, a brand’s message for a particular area should be hyper-localized to maximize relevance. A restaurant chain with storefronts in regions like California, which is experiencing a roll-back of its reopening timeline, can leverage the right messaging by letting consumers know that drive-throughs and app ordering are still available during this time. All the while, the same restaurant chain can send a different message about new outdoor seating options that are available in regions like New York.

Additionally, location data can be used to strengthen mobile in-app and digital-out-of-home advertisements by engaging with consumers on the go and monitoring campaign effectiveness. With political advertisers taking a large slice of the ad space, the targeting, engagement, and measurement capabilities of these methods can supplement brand advertisers’ broader digital media efforts and benefit their audiences.

This year’s political campaigns are impacting brand marketers’ campaign strategy, but if they prepare, they can reach existing audiences on new channels and increase receptivity as well. Brand marketers can navigate the landscape during the political season by diversifying and testing other platforms outside of the standard Google and Facebook use.

Ken Harlan is founder and CEO of MobileFuse.