Political Ad Tracker: Hours From The End, What Are Marketer Takeaways?

From a friend suggesting “swing" states should be called “stalking” states to the viral video of one child’s frustration over the campaign, we’re all seeing the impact of the 2012 election season on consumers.

Thankfully, we’re just hours away from surviving the loudest, longest and most media-saturated segment of the entire campaign season.

In the last two weeks alone, media plans have shifted quickly to address changes in campaign strategy. Here’s a quick review, along with takeaways for marketers from an election season that has clearly been more noise than funk.



From Big Bird to "Binders of Women" and Bayonets

Single debate references have fueled new media plans before, but perhaps not quite as extensive a shift as “binders full of women” in particular.

Ad placement became prevalent on cable networks to address female voters overnight. HGTV, Food Network and Lifetime joined an already aggressive schedule across History Channel, FX, USA and other top-tier cable networks.

Male-skewing networks that are typical election targets were freed up by this shift and were being offered as makegoods for other networks. TV saw an increased presence in daytime talk shows, soap operas and prime access to enhance the morning and news-focused areas. Even radio formats that were skewing female were utilized by Obama’s team to promote his stance on women’s rights and related issues.

The Independent, the Undecided and Everyone Else

Other trends we have seen unfold in the last few weeks speak to each medium. Multiple Presidential, PAC-fueled, issue-related, and local candidate messages fill the airwaves. At least 70% of commercial breaks are filled with political ads. Opposing sides that are sometimes adjacent to each other and spot wear out are even more accelerated, with a single candidate appearing multiple times in one commercial pod.

Cable:   Candidates and PACs are tapping into cable network strengths and its psychographics. Top tiers are used first, and some cable is being bought by zones to carry the message most pertinent for a geographical area.

Radio:  Radio has surged in the final weeks of the election. It was used very little or not at all by Romney's team until a few weeks ago, while Team Obama's radio focus on the 18-34 voter has shifted focus to “Vote Early” calls to action and addressing women's issues. Romney's team placed massive schedules focusing on adults 35-64 and Obama added News/Talk stations to balance the stations favored by young listeners and women. In Cincinnati, there seems to be a Presidential commercial in every commercial break.

Telemarketing:  The Private Caller has been a constant on caller id across the nation. The calls are recordings from increasingly prominent public figures. If you haven’t gotten a call from Ann, Mitt, Michelle or Barack, don’t be surprised when you do. Friends and neighbors have started screening calls, not answering any unrecognizable or long-distance calls.

The above strategies are consistent with digital, social media and direct mail campaigns that have also turned up the volume, expanding their focus based on demographics and the geography of their voting targets.

Data Fuels Media Plan Flexibility

In addition to the obvious lesson around not over-saturating any one target or media outlet, one of the biggest takeaways from this campaign season is the need for flexibility in media plans.

The ability to quickly capitalize on rapidly emerging opportunities across everything from media and technology to consumer opinion is critical to optimizing any media plan’s success. Once a characteristic reserved just for election campaigns, marketers' access to data throughout a campaign has made this flexibility a requirement for all advertisers.

To inform a level of media plan iteration in 2013 that rivals the political campaigns, marketers must ensure that their media teams have access to the right data streams. Collecting and analyzing the right inputs during a plan’s execution helps identify opportunities. This will help marketers drive more effective results from their media spend -- their largest single marketing expenditure in 2013.

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