The Classic Strategy: TV (if you can afford it) - CN4 Partners
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This is the second in a series of posts about the different advertising mediums and the important choices you’ll be making in your campaign or Independent Expenditure effort. You can view our post about Direct Mail here.

I want to start out that the most effective media plans are layered and dynamic – each medium supporting the others while also playing to their own strengths. In that vein, it is important for us to know all the strengths and potential questions about utilizing the different options.

Political campaigns have six major choices when deciding what kind of advertising to purchase: direct mail, television, radio, newspaper, paid phones/texts and digital. None of these mediums are the “best” – they are simply tools in your toolbox. As you run your campaign, you and your team get to choose the right tool to apply to the problem.

In the last 10 years, skepticism about the effectiveness of spending on television advertising has increased. Other mediums have entered into the landscape and consumption habits have shifted.

Every campaign has its own balance of mediums but here are some of the things we think about when we’re considering television advertising:

  • Television advertising can be enormously powerful. Even in extremely hard, competitive races where both sides have large ad buys, studies have shown consistent, positive effects of television ads aired in the last 60 days of the campaign.
  • The wide reach, even though not as targetable as other mediums like direct mail, can be cost-efficient.
  • Some research even indicates that television ads are motivating to the base, and discouraging to the opposition base voters. Perhaps GOTV should be rebranded – Get On TV.

Here are some questions that come up often:

  • Is television viewership down? The amount of television that Americans watch is declining in favor of streaming, especially during the early part of the pandemic when many accelerated their switch to streaming. Depending on whose data you look at, most Americans still watch 2-3 hours of live TV a day.
  • Are digital views the same as television views? If we’re talking apples to apples, or a 30-second, non-skippable ad, sure. The challenge is that there isn’t a lot of this type of inventory available. There is far more 6-second and 15-second out there, and Facebook video ads are often scrolled right past.
  • What about saturation? For campaigns with large amounts of voters, television becomes the go-to advertising method. That is why you’ll see Congressional or statewide races in expensive ad wars with candidates, IEs and party committees all saturating the airwaves. We’ve seen the cost-per-point skyrocket in these cases and television stations chop time off of programing to squeeze in more ads. In these cases, there’s very much a diminishing return so if you are in one of these ad wars, focus on the creative to get advertising that breaks through the clutter.

For legislative or local candidates with smaller budgets, local cable might be a good option. Cable is bought by cable “zones” which may or may not be a good fit for your jurisdiction. Cable has about 75 million households, down from 95 million four years ago. For reference, there are about 124 million households in America. However, cable television viewers tend to be homeowners, older and wealthier than the average voter – attributes also closely tied to voting. In many areas, cable still reaches 50-60% of the electorate.

It’s always important to build your ad spending for your particular district, candidate, budget, electorate and campaign. Different voters watch and digest information through different channels of communication – so it’s important that your strategy takes this into account. We’d love to sit down with you and build a custom strategy for your campaign.