How Political Advertising Affects Local Media Buying


Political ad spending for the 2016 election cycle is expected to pour billions of dollars into national and local media outlets. As a consumer, it will be hard to miss the barrage of political ads that will hit airwaves, mobile screens, billboards and mailboxes. For local advertisers, the swarm of political advertising can create frustration and disruption in the overall marketing strategy.

The effects of political advertising may be felt more strongly in battleground states for the presidential race (i.e. Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada, Florida, Virginia and Colorado). Heated state races for U.S. Congress and House of Representatives, as well as contested local races, will require their share of advertising. And last, but certainly not the least, the interest groups and PACs will come on the scene with deep pockets to spend.

At present time, analysts are predicting $11.4 billion to be spent in the form of national, state and local political advertising. While digital/online media is expected to see steady growth – to gain almost 10 percent of the political spending pie – broadcast television is still anticipated to take in almost 50 percent of the political ad dollars. This creates heavy demand on inventory and often elevates spot costs beyond the norm. Television and local news/talk radio stations will especially start to feel that pressure as we near the political window, which starts September 9 and goes through the general election on November 8.

Strategic America’s media team always keeps eyes and ears on the political landscape because it ultimately impacts local media strategy. We have already prompted dialogue with our clients about what to expect and what tactics can be considered to navigate through the political advertising waters.

Here are a few considerations for local advertisers:

  • Depending on client goals and seasonality, it may be possible to take a media hiatus starting during the general election window and coming back after the election on November 8.
  • If it is essential to be on television, it would be best to avoid key dayparts that are traditionally gobbled up by political advertisers. Those include local news, news commentary like Meet The Press and 60 Minutes, and cable news networks like Fox News, CNBC, CNN.
  • There are alternative media tactics that can be considered, such as highly targeted online video, cinema advertising, which primarily remains a “political-free” zone, and local sponsorship packages that require an upfront commitment and then you’re locked in and cannot be pre-empted.

SA’s media team will be monitoring local buys during the months ahead to make the best recommendations to protect each client’s media dollars and keep client success top-of-mind. To learn more, give us a call.


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