2020 will be an unprecedented advertising year. Campaigns and Elections is reporting that ad spending will hit $10B. Candidates, issue advertisers, and political action committees (PAC) will turn to the one advertising tool with mass audience appeal. With infighting democrats already flooding all channels and robo-calls increasing, causing consumers to wonder how bad this might actually become, broadcast advertisers will need to have a game plan simply to stay on the channel they’ve purchased.

Inventory Is Finite

Radio and television have a limited ad inventory. With segmented dayparts driving the density of :60 ads in each, there are only so many spots to go around. Advertisers purchasing time during the season inundated with ad buys from campaigns, political action committees (PAC) and other “friends of the candidate,” may find themselves crushed by inventory limitations, not to mention pricing strategies to make the most of a zero-inventory game.

Know the Rules

Campaign advertising, placed by those managing the advertising of the candidate him or herself, are entitled to the lowest rates in the “class” of time they purchase. This is a complicated rule and is often administered incorrectly. First, only federal candidates are granted this distinction. Local and Statewide candidates don’t fall under this ruling, but frequently radio and television stations will pay local candidates the same courtesy in order to avoid questions. The same is true of the political protection periods: the FCC-regulated protection period is just 45 days prior to a primary and 60 days prior to a general election.

Consider Your Game Plan

The candidate him or herself is just a fraction of the activity in the marketplace during election periods. Issues advertising, PAC advertising, and “friends of” ads also abound. That means that a broadcast outlet is responsible for selling at a fixed rate to just a segment of election-based advertising, not the topic as a whole. Because these peripheral influencer groups will also be placing timeline ads, available inventory will be slim, and what is free will be priced according to demand.

If your marketing strategy is established already and you plan to compete with available ad space during this time (or you haven’t dramatically increased your budget to accommodate the change in marketplace demand), you aren’t prepared. Serious consideration should also be paid to the channels you are selecting. Inventory demands in digital don’t exist the same way they do for broadcast and outdoor advertising. Don’t wait to adjust—if you do, it may be too late to make the necessary impact.

For a comprehensive review of the FCC rules as written by a media consulting organization, click here. For a more legal version of 2020 regulations and definitions, view this. If you’d like the official material from the Federal Communications Commission, you can obtain a hard copy of The Public and Broadcasting by calling the FCC’s toll-free number at 1-888-CALL FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice, or 1-888-TELL FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY. You can also download a copy in PDF or text at The Public and Broadcasting.


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