Immediately following his August nomination as the Republican Presidential Candidate, Mitt Romney visited Cincinnati. And as I write this, President Obama is about a mile away from Empower MediaMarketing headquarters to kick off his 11th trip to Ohio just this year.
Neither candidate is known to be a fan of Cincinnati's Reds or Bengals, but they're investing quality time here to earn Ohio's electoral votes. No U.S. President since JFK has gotten to the White House without winning Ohio.
Swing States Turn Into Battlegrounds
Once known as swing states, battleground states do not have clear, overwhelming support for one candidate. To push voter support in their direction, both candidates focus time and media dollars on a list of states that changes throughout the election. Coming out of the conventions, there are currently nine states up for grabs.
2012 electoral votes
2008 electoral votes
Battleground states are identified using a mix of opinion polls, party registration numbers and how the state has voted in prior elections.
Media Spend Makes Marketers Battleground Casualties
The bulk of the Election 2012 spend tends to target battleground states because the candidates don't want to waste money in cities and states that will clearly go to their campaign or to their opponent. In fact, political ads started earlier than expected in battleground states -- in late May. This is because Super PAC funding is so high, they have more money to spend than available inventory during the traditional August to November season.
As a result, media buyers handling plans in battleground states are already dealing with issues that other media buyers will not have until the final stretch of political campaigning next month. So what do brands and media buyers need to do to avoid becoming a battleground state casualty?
Follow the List: The list of states, and the resulting impact on media plans, can change as the election continues.
Plan Accordingly: Brands with a presence across multiple local markets need to continually assess whether their plans will be impacted.
Prepare for Super PAC Impact: With Super PACs and tax-exempt advocacy groups funding nearly a third of all the U.S. presidential election ads, the current level of spending is not expected to decrease in battleground states or elsewhere during the election.
Shift Spend: In addition to shifting from TV and print in local markets into other media, brands can also stand out by shifting into different dayparts and looking at program integrations. Everything from high school football news packages and morning news traffic coverage sponsorship to closed-caption sponsorships can also help brands get their messages through the constant barrage of political ads.
Follow the Fight And Keep Options Open
As Empower's election media analyst team has noted before, it's key for marketers to be fast, flexible and creative. Keeping an eye on the list of battleground states as it changes will help ensure that you're ready for the impact if a state playing a key role in your media plan changes from red or blue to purple.
Empower MediaMarketing's Heather Watson and Marge Pistulka contributed to this commentary.