Media buying in 2020: Plan now for political dollars flood

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If you’re a business owner, upcoming political ad spending could potentially threaten your marketing efforts next year. And if you don’t plan accordingly you probably won’t get a vote in the matter.

In January 2019, just past the 2018 midterm elections, President Trump launched his first campaign ad for 2020. Around the country and in spot markets throughout 2019 — a non-election year — political advertising has remained active. Not active enough to cause media strategists and marketers to lose sleep, but enough to be aware that when political advertising really ramps up, media spend will require lots of planning, flexibility and patience. 

National and local advertisers across industries are affected by election year spending. From small, local car dealerships to a large pharma corporation, all businesses can be hit equally hard if using broadcast mediums. Every marketer needs to take note of how an election year and political advertising influence consumer perceptions, media consumption and buying habits, let alone their effects on advertising costs and inventory.

The Impact of Political Ad Spending

Forecasts for 2020 spending for candidates (local, state and national), PACs, and issues are in the low billions. Impact on individual media markets will vary, but few (if any) will be free of political spending. Navigating the havoc political ad demand places on media channels and all advertisers is critical.

The inevitable flood of political advertising dollars means:

Demand increases for all media channels

Some channels can increase inventory to meet the demand (print, direct mail,social digital to a degree) while some cannot (broadcast and cable TV and radio).

Demand translates to higher costs for certain media channels

This refers to channels with limited inventory, like broadcast TV, cable TV and radio. By law, political advertisers receive “lowest unit charges" (LUC) and reasonable access. This forces higher ”starting” rates and a limited number of ad units for non-political advertisers. If you own or market a business, that’s you. Less available inventory and higher costs

Demand produces ad clutter across all media channels

From broadcast and digital to social, print and direct mail, unique and creative brand messages need to rise above the noise and mudslinging of political advertising.

How You Can Strategize Your Media Buying

While this may feel overwhelming, there are strategies that can be put in place today to make for a more efficient and ROI-driving 2020 media buying process. Rather than retreat, marketers must be proactive in election years to ensure their messages are received and have impact.

Stay the course

Resist the temptation to back away or reduce budgets. Some marketers may need to consider increasing spend and fight to get their messaging out there so the company’s branding can stay the course

Initiate omnichannel marketing plans

Maintain a brand presence on the channels proven successful while incorporating others into the mix for cohesive messaging, regardless of where users are.

Plan ahead and plan for change

Be prepared to shift marketing budgets as costs and clutter increase and become an issue. During hotly contested races, political ads can — and often do — pre-empt advertisers on TV, cable and radio. When this happens, the advertiser can:

  1. Pay more to get ads back on the air which can become cost prohibitive, or
  2. Get the message out using channels that are less affected by political media buying, like digital, direct mail/other print advertising, social/experiential and out of home.

Creative brand messages

Develop creative designs and messaging that break through the noise by being unique, bold and confidently “you.”


Understanding the potential impact of an election year and preparing for it ahead of time is key to the success of media messaging. And regardless if it's an election year or not, media buying is a process that deserves careful attention to detail, staying up-to-date on trends and emerging media and a deep understanding of how to use and incorporate all media into marketing plans.

At Integrity Web Consulting, we manage holistic and successful programs on purpose, ensuring your brand presence and visibility across media channels is strategic and effective. Whether you’re looking to display ads that reach the right people at the right time, need a custom website with user experience at the forefront, or something else, contact the experts at Integrity today to begin your next program.

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