Here Comes the Noise: What's Your Media Plan for 2020?

In 2020, political candidates will spend an all-time high in advertising, dispensing a projected $9.9 billion across TV, digital and social -- a marked increase over the 2018 ($8.7 billion) and 2016 ($6.3 billion) elections.

With the candidates eating up so much of the available inventory, how will your brand rise above the noise?

Will you make your mark in digital? Well, consider that many of the candidates are developing the equivalent of an in-house agency to manage the digital marketing process, with next year’s digital ad-spending forecast to reach $2.8 billion as candidates clamor to demonstrate their viability and target smaller donors.

How about TV? As always, the election cycle will devour significant TV ad inventory.

Kantar recently reported that during the final weeks of the last election cycle, spot advertisers’ share of voice dropped from 71% to 51%. Political advertising took up 43% of the available slots on local news in battleground markets, compared to just 10% at the start of the season.



If the viewership numbers of the first Democratic debates are any indication of what lies ahead, it appears the public is already primed to be immersed in the 2020 election cycle. Over 15 million viewers tuned into the first debate across NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, while over 27 million viewed the second debate (18.1 million via TV and another 9 million via online streaming).

Considering the third Trump-Clinton debate in 2016 earned 71.6 million viewers (behind only Trump-Clinton’s first debate at 84 million and Carter-Reagan at 80.6 million), we can expect the 2020 presidential debate viewership to increase significantly.

And take note: the political parties are getting smarter about their media plans, requiring the networks live-stream the debates to increase reach, especially among that elusive, highly desirable millennial audience. 

In fact, the very nature of the 2020 political calendar (and beyond) is structured with major tentpoles dominating the cultural conversation every quarter. Consider the following: 

  • Q1: Primaries and Super Tuesday
  • Q2: More never ends
  • Q3: Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Not to mention the Olympics!
  • Q4: The election. But let’s be honest, there will be “Breaking News” vying for audience attention every day leading up to the actual election. And after we all vote, there will be endless analysis to watch. 

What’s a brand with a message to do? Where will you turn when planning your 2020 strategy, knowing the incoming deluge of politics across all media that awaits? How can brands connect meaningfully with consumers when the national media conversation is dominated by politics? 

Let’s start by giving the people what they want, which is -- you guessed it -- a respite from the indefatigable coverage of the 2020 cycle. They will likely turn to content that makes them happy and activates a more creative, curious part of their brain.

To provide this, and to avoid the glut of in-market political messaging, consider turning to less traditional means but highly engaging ways to communicate your brand’s message: 

  • Lean into branded content. Align your brand’s purpose and products/offerings with content that is lighter in spirit and reminds people of a time when we talked about more than healthcare and immigration. Research shows that millennials in particular expect brands to offer more than products and services — they value experiences over products.
  • Advertise when your audience has decided to engage. If TV must be part of the plan, consider streaming to reach your target audience when they’ve decided to sit down and take in content. And there are options beyond :15, :30, and :60 commercials. For example, nonintrusive ads on Hulu that appear when the viewer hits pause, or value-exchange ads on Roku that give viewers a free movie or sneak-peek episode in exchange for engaging with advertiser content.
  • Leverage the voice of the people. Social media is the perfect turn-your-brain-off activity. Have you been thinking about influencer marketing as a viable channel? This could be the time to test it. Engage real people to post about your brand in a natural way, and continue to engage those same influencers over the course of the year to make the brand connection more authentic. Take heed: Influencer marketing is growing faster than organic search, email and other digital channels, and most marketers are increasing their influencer budgets next year. The time is now to establish your exclusive relationships with influencers.
  • From your brand to their ears. Podcasts reach 62 million Americans weekly, and 78% of those listeners report that they “do not mind ads as a means of supporting podcast content.” Given the vast diversity of topics covered, it’s relatively easy to find content that closely aligns with your brand’s purpose and offerings. Host reads provide implied endorsements by talent that listeners are choosing to pump through their earbuds on a regular basis. Let’s face it, people will be listening to podcasts for political analysis, so this presents an opportunity to still be relevant and timely while reaching listeners who have opted in to hearing content. 

And if you’re really daring or just tuned into the fact that people are looking for ways to unite and not fight, come out with a message that emphasizes the humanity in all of us.

The Alzheimer’s Association did this brilliantly in the most recent debates. Their TV spot acknowledged the red/blue divide and turned it into something that everyone can rally behind: “Red + Blue=Purple, the Color of the Alzheimer’s Association. The Alzheimer’s Association is leading that fight. Divided we fail, but united we win.” 

You don’t have to take sides to be heard. After all, we’re all just humans trying to make it through a tumultuous political year — even us marketers.





2 comments about "Here Comes the Noise: What's Your Media Plan for 2020?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 13, 2019 at 10:21 a.m.

    Of course some GRP inventory will be eaten up by political ads---especially in swing states---but the idea that advertisers should drastically alter their media plans because of this is a strange one---in my opinion. For example, we are told that," If TV must be part of the plan", the advertiser should think about using streaming to better target consumers. Maybe, but won't this miss many consumers---a lot of them---about 45%--- don't stream at all per month and  many of those who do use ad-free services.

    Actually I think that streaming is a fine targeting option all of the time, providing the price is reasonable,  not instead of "TV" but in conjunction with it. Also, most people get so sick of the barrage of stupid political ads preceding elections that they probably welcome more rational ads promoting  real products not fake politicians. Perhaps advertisers should just stay put and even live with a somewhat reduced frequency when the political ads engulf us, as their messages might have more than the usual impact whiile the politicians are blowing  wind.

  2. Kristy Vivian from Billups, August 14, 2019 at 12:13 p.m.

    Don't forget about OOH!   Rise above with OOH!  Start the conversation.  

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