Advertising in an Election Year

Get ready. It’s an election year. 

Election Year Marketing

If you market your product in the United States, it behooves you to take the U.S. presidential election into account as you allocate your dollars and consider marketing strategies. 

Every four years, the political landscape becomes heated and ad space becomes crowded as candidates spend an enormous amount of money on political ads. Statista, a global data and intelligence platform based in Hamburg, Germany, predicts political ad spending will reach a record $10.2 billion in 2024, while GroupM, a media buying agency in New York, projects politicians and advocacy groups will spend roughly $16 billion. Either way, it’s a tremendous amount of money.

And what does that mean for sleep products? Three things.

First, expect increased ad clutter. Political seasons are often described as noisy and chaotic. A surge of political ads across a number of platforms means it’s essential to craft messages that will cut through the jumble. 

Second, costs tend to rise during these seasons thanks to high demand for ad space. According to BrandMuscle, a Chicago-based channel marketing company, advertisers should plan for anywhere from a 15% to 50% increase, depending on which type of advertising vehicle and timing they choose. It’s best to stay away from the six weeks leading up to the presidential election, as well as other key election dates.

Third, be prepared for consumer focus to be scattered. Consumers will be distracted by news, debates and candidate coverage. So much will compete for their attention that it will be more difficult than usual to get them to engage with your brand.

While the presidential election will grab most of the limelight, don’t forget local races. AdImpact, an Alexandria, Virginia-based firm that tracks political ad spending, expects $2.1 billion to be spent on Senate races, $1.7 billion for House campaigns, $361 million on gubernatorial elections and $3.3 billion on other elections. 

Traditionally, political advertising has focused on broadcast television ($5.1 billion), cable television ($1.9 billion) and connected television ($1.3 billion). (If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase ‘connected television,’ it’s a device that’s connected to or embedded in a TV to support streaming. Examples include Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, PlayStation, Roku and Xbox.)

Radio, billboards and ads on buses, taxis, benches and the like also are favorites in the political advertising space. But digital advertising is growing. (See more about various platforms below.)

Ways to win

Now that you have a sense of the marketing landscape for 2024, what are the best ways to navigate the year?

This may seem obvious, but planning is key. To develop cost-effective media strategies, understand your customer. “Your media team should implement a tailored data strategy as part of your media plan to meet your target audiences where they want to be reached online,” according to a blog post from Marketing Doctor, a paid media agency based in Northampton, Massachusetts. “By being strategic in your targeting and data strategy you can avoid the costly competition of broadly targeted campaigns and ensure you are reaching the right audience where they are already spending their time online.” 

With a plethora of different kinds of content this year, brand safety needs to be top of mind, according to a blog post from digital marketing agency Wpromote, headquartered in El Segundo, California. “Your ads can show up alongside other ads, user-generated content and news stories that could potentially offend or anger customers,” writes Eliza Bradshares, associate director of consumer strategy for Wpromote. She recommends trendspotting tools such as Google Trends and social listening to find out what consumers are talking about in real time. “If your ads are appearing next to content your audience finds offensive or your lack of a statement on a social issue is making a subsegment of your customers angry, it’s better to know sooner than later so you can address the issue.” It might be helpful to have a response ready.

Many marketers recommend keeping brand ads neutral and nonpolitical. A blog post from RIO Amplified encourages appealing to your audience by highlighting shared values, avoiding controversial topics, and focusing on what unites, not what divides.

“Now is not the time to change your message to be relevant to the election,” says Megan Pratt, principal product marketing manager at AdRoll, a San Francisco-based e-commerce marketing platform. “In fact, now is the time to focus on articulating exactly what customers should know and love about your brand.”

Election Year Marketing

Pick Your Platform

Erin Strong, senior vice president of marketing for BrandMuscle, a Chicago-based channel marketing company, offers the following information about key marketing channels during this season.

Social media 

Avoid social media around the election unless you’re encouraging people to vote as part of their civic responsibility. Avoid taking a political stance.

Organic social

These are the free posts and videos your brand offers on its social pages. “Serve as a reprieve for consumers by posting more local, nonelection content,” Strong writes. “Organic posts can be a breath of fresh air compared to the bombardment of political ads during the height of the election. … Keep 80% of the content informative, entertaining or educational.” Another tip that would work in favor of bedding brands: “Share content around stress management to become a reprieve for stressed voters.” BedTimes thinks it’s safe to say a good night’s sleep is a huge stress reliever.

Paid social

The cost of advertising could increase 10% to 20% overall and could rise as much as 50% in the weeks before the election in battleground states like Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Paid media

A number of platforms, including Amazon, Google, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and TikTok have banned political ads. Be aware you’ll have political marketing competition on Meta (which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp), YouTube and X (formerly Twitter).

Traditional media

Television: As mentioned in the main article, TV is still a favorite of politicians. Political advertisers spent $8.8 billion on TV ads in 2022 for midterm elections.

Radio: Radio ad availability decreases in election years. “Stations have to give preference to political ads based on Federal Communications Commission guidelines, so once a station sells out for a particular week, the rates can increase dramatically,” Strong writes. 

Related Posts

Mattress Firm Hires Chief Digital Officer, Promotes EVP of Marketing

Mattress Firm has named George Hanson as its first-ever...

Malouf Continues to Invest in Marketing Team

Logan, Utah-based Malouf Home has named Ashlee Willes as...

Standard Fiber Appoints New Marketing Executive

Standard Fiber, a supplier of home textiles, has appointed...