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Political Season Advertising: Comprehensive Guide to Effective Media Buying

by Colling Media - November 16, 2023

Political Season Advertising: Comprehensive Guide to Effective Media Buying

Navigating the tumultuous waters of the political season can be a daunting task for any brand. With politicians with hefty budgets dominating the media landscape, how can your brand’s voice be heard amidst the deafening noise of political discourse? Our comprehensive political season advertising guide will equip you with the knowledge and tools to navigate any political season. First, a dive into the intricacies of the political media landscape, providing insights into how political campaigns influence media availability and costs. Second, explore strategic planning techniques for media buying, helping you define your brand’s position, and set clear goals, and budgets. Finally, take a quiz and find out if you’re ready to market your products during the political season.

Understanding the Political Media Landscape

During political seasons, ad space becomes a premium commodity. Political campaigns, backed by substantial budgets, dominate the media, inflating costs and reducing availability. The shift affects traditional and digital platforms, necessitating a strategic approach to media buying for non-political brands.

Strategic Planning for Media Buying

Assessing Your Brand’s Position and Goals

Define clear, non-political objectives for your campaign. For example, focus on brand awareness or promoting specific products/services. Conduct a SWOT analysis to understand your brand’s strengths and how they can be leveraged during this period.

Budgeting Wisely: Anticipate a 10-20% increase in advertising costs during peak political seasons. Consider reallocating funds from high-cost periods to less competitive times or channels. Explore cost-effective digital platforms like programmatic advertising for better ROI.

Source: LA Times

Timing and Scheduling

Avoid major political event dates (like debates or election days) for major campaign launches. Utilize tools like Google Trends to identify less competitive time slots or days for advertising. Schedule your campaigns during times when your target audience is most active but political advertising is less intense.

  1. Primary Season: The primary elections typically begin in the early months of the election year. In the case of 2024, you can expect increased political ad activity starting from early 2024 as candidates vie for their party’s nomination.
  2. Super Tuesday: This is a significant day in the primary election process when a large number of states hold their primaries. It usually occurs in March and often triggers a surge in political advertising as candidates try to influence a large swath of voters.
  3. Pre-and-Post-Primary: Leading up to and following the primary elections, there will be heightened ad activity as candidates establish their positions and start to focus on the general election.
  4. General Election Campaign: After the primaries, the focus shifts to the general election in November. The intensity of advertising typically increases as the year progresses, with a significant uptick in the months leading up to November.
  5. State-Specific Variations: Different states may see spikes in political advertising at different times, depending on their primary dates and the strategic importance of the state in the electoral college.
  6. Early Advertising: Some candidates or political action committees (PACs) may start advertising earlier than usual to gain early momentum or visibility, especially in key battleground states.
  7. Digital and Social Media: In addition to traditional media, digital and social media platforms will also see a significant increase in political ads. This can start earlier and be more sustained throughout the election cycle.

Considering non-peak hours or days for advertising can be a strategic move. These times typically offer lower rates and less competition.

Choosing the Right Channels and Platforms

Traditional Media vs. Digital Media

Evaluate the cost-effectiveness of TV and radio slots during this period. Local cable channels might offer more affordable rates. Increase your focus on digital platforms, especially those less saturated with political content, like niche blogs or forums.

Leveraging Social Media

Target social media platforms where your audience demographic is most active but less politically engaged. Use social media analytics tools to identify non-political user groups or interests that align with your brand.

Exploring Alternative Advertising Avenues

Podcast advertising can be a strategic choice, especially with content unrelated to politics. Consider outdoor advertising in less politically charged areas or where your target demographic frequents.

Crafting Politically-Neutral Messaging

Stay informed about current political issues to avoid unintentional alignment or opposition. Focus on universal themes like community, innovation, or sustainability that resonate with a broad audience.

Legal Considerations and Compliance

Stay updated on advertising laws, especially those related to political seasons, to avoid inadvertent violations. Consult with legal experts to review your advertising content for compliance.

Monitoring and Adapting Strategies

Real-Time Analytics and Feedback

Monitor metrics like click-through rates, engagement rates, and conversion rates to gauge campaign effectiveness. Use social listening tools to track audience sentiment and adjust messaging as needed.

Political Season Advertising Crisis Management

Navigating the political season can be a complex and challenging time for non-political brands. The heightened political discourse and increased media attention can create a volatile environment where even the most carefully crafted marketing campaigns can encounter unexpected setbacks. Every company, regardless of size, should have a crisis management plan. Any company, product, or service can be thrust into crisis in today’s quick-to-judge pop culture machine. You never know when it’s your company’s turn to be in the crosshairs of politics and pop culture.

Broccoli: In 1990, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush famously declared his aversion to the vegetable, sparking a debate about personal preferences and societal expectations. Bush’s public dislike of broccoli had a surprising impact on the broccoli industry. Contrary to expectations, broccoli sales actually increased following Bush’s comments. In fact, the Vegetable Growers Association of America reported a 10% surge in broccoli sales in the weeks following Bush’s speech.

Twisted Sister: In 2016, then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump began using “We’re Not Gonna Take It” at his rallies. The band’s lead singer, Dee Snider, publicly criticized Trump’s use of the song, stating that the band did not endorse Trump or his policies. Despite Snider’s objections, Trump continued to use the song, and it became a staple of his rallies.

Goodyear: In 2020, Goodyear was caught in the middle of a political controversy when President Trump tweeted that he expected supporters to “boycott” the tire company due to its social media policy prohibiting employees from wearing political attire or expressing political opinions. The tweet sparked a backlash against Goodyear, with some consumers boycotting its products and others defending the company’s right to establish workplace policies. Goodyear ultimately clarified its policy to apply only to political campaigning and electioneering, but the incident highlighted the potential for brands to be politicized due to external factors.

Understanding the Risk Landscape

The political season presents a unique set of risks for non-political brands. Unintentional association with political figures or ideologies, poorly timed messaging, and inadequate crisis preparedness can all lead to reputational damage and loss of customer trust.

Unintentional Association

The political season can amplify any perceived connection between your brand and political figures or parties, even if it’s unintentional. Alienating customers with opposing views and damage your brand’s reputation for neutrality.

Poorly Timed Messaging 

Timing is critical during the political season. Messaging that inadvertently aligns with or opposes political events can backfire, leading to negative publicity and consumer backlash.

Inadequate Crisis Preparedness

Without a well-defined crisis management plan, your brand may be unable to respond effectively to negative reactions or controversies, allowing them to fester and damage your reputation.

Building a Political Season Advertising Crisis Management Plan

A comprehensive crisis management plan provides a roadmap for addressing potential reputational threats and mitigating their impact. The plan should outline the following key elements:

  1. Identification of Crisis Triggers: Identify potential crisis scenarios that could arise during the political season, such as unintentional association with political figures or poorly timed messaging.
  2. Establishment of a Crisis Response Team: Assemble a team of individuals with expertise in crisis management, public relations, and legal matters. Define clear roles and responsibilities for each team member.
  3. Development of Communication Protocols: Establish clear communication protocols for responding to crises, including guidelines for internal and external communication. Designate a spokesperson responsible for issuing official statements.
  4. Preparation of Predefined Response Templates: Create a library of predefined response templates for various crisis scenarios. These templates should be adaptable to specific situations while maintaining consistency in messaging.
  5. Monitoring and Risk Assessment: Continuously monitor political events, social media, and customer feedback to identify potential crisis triggers. Regularly assess the risk landscape and update your crisis management plan accordingly.

Responding to Crises with Agility and Sensitivity

When a crisis arises, prompt and effective action is essential to minimize its impact. Follow these guidelines for effective crisis response:

  1. Rapid Assessment: Immediately assess the nature and severity of the crisis. Gather all relevant information and analyze the potential impact on your brand’s reputation.
  2. Transparency and Honesty: Prioritize transparency and honesty in your communication. Acknowledge the issue, provide context, and express empathy for any affected parties.
  3. Timely Response: Respond promptly to negative reactions or controversies. Avoid delays that could allow the crisis to escalate and damage your brand’s reputation.
  4. Adaptation and Learning: Use the crisis as an opportunity to learn and improve your crisis management strategies. Review your response and identify areas for improvement in future situations.

Political Season Advertising Readiness Quiz

Is Your Brand Ready for Political Season Media Buying?

This quiz is designed to help you assess your brand’s preparedness for navigating the media buying landscape during the political season. Answer these questions to gauge your readiness and identify areas where you might need to focus more attention.

Understanding of the Political Media Landscape

  1. I am fully aware of how political campaigns impact media availability and costs. (3 points)
  2. I have some understanding, but it’s not comprehensive. (2 points)
  3. I have little to no understanding of this. (1 point)

Clarity on Brand’s Position and Goals

  1. My brand’s objectives are clearly defined and non-political. (3 points)
  2. We have some goals, but they could be more specific or better aligned. (2 points)
  3. We haven’t set clear goals for this period. (1 point)

Budgeting for Increased Costs

  1. We have budgeted for a 10-20% increase in advertising costs. (3 points)
  2. We have considered it, but haven’t adjusted our budget yet. (2 points)
  3. We haven’t planned for any budget changes. (1 point)

Strategic Timing and Scheduling

  1. We have a strategy to avoid major political events and peak times. (3 points)
  2. We’ve thought about it, but don’t have a concrete plan. (2 points)
  3. We haven’t considered the timing of our campaigns about political events. (1 point)

Choice of Advertising Channels

  1. We have identified the best channels for our audience that are less politically saturated. (3 points)
  2. We are in the process of selecting appropriate channels. (2 points)
  3. We haven’t looked into channel selection specifically for the political season. (1 point)

Crafting Politically-Neutral Messaging

  1. Our messaging is carefully crafted to remain neutral and avoid political implications. (3 points)
  2. We try to keep our messaging neutral, but it’s not always reviewed with this in mind. (2 points)
  3. We haven’t specifically focused on the political neutrality of our messaging. (1 point)

Legal Compliance and Awareness

  1. We are up-to-date with advertising laws and have consulted legal experts. (3 points)
  2. We have some awareness but haven’t consulted experts. (2 points)
  3. We are not fully aware of the legal considerations during political seasons. (1 point)

Crisis Management Preparedness

  1. We have a comprehensive crisis management plan in place. (3 points)
  2. We have a basic plan, but it could be more detailed. (2 points)
  3. We don’t have a crisis management plan. (1 point)

Use of Analytics and Real-Time Feedback

  1. We actively use analytics and social listening tools to adapt our strategies. (3 points)
  2. We use some analytics, but not extensively for real-time adjustments. (2 points)
  3. We don’t use analytics or social listening tools effectively. (1 point)

Engagement with Media Buying Agency

  1. We are engaged with a media buying agency or have accessed relevant resources. (3 points)
  2. We are considering consulting a media buying agency or looking into resources. (2 points)
  3. We haven’t engaged with a media buying agency or resources. (1 point)

Political Season Advertising Readiness Quiz Scoring

Mostly A’s (18-27 points): Your brand is well-prepared for media buying during the political season. Keep focusing on your strategies and be ready to adapt as needed.

Mostly B’s (12-17 points): Your brand is somewhat prepared, but some areas need more attention. Focus on those aspects to improve your readiness.

Mostly C’s (6-11 points): Your brand needs to put more effort into preparing for the political season. Consider each area carefully and develop a comprehensive strategy.

Remember, navigating media buying during political seasons is challenging but manageable with preparation and strategy. Use this quiz as a starting point to ensure your brand is on the right track.


Successfully navigating the political season advertising requires careful planning, strategic timing, and sensitive messaging. By understanding the challenges and adapting your strategies, your brand can maintain its presence without engaging in political discourse.

Ready to make your brand stand out during the political season? Contact us for a free consultation and unlock the full potential of your media buying strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Political Season Advertising

What is political season advertising?

Political season advertising refers to the practice of advertising products or services during a period of heightened political activity, such as elections or political campaigns. It can be challenging for non-political brands to effectively navigate this environment.

How does the political media landscape impact advertising during the political season?

During the political season, ad space becomes limited and costly due to political campaigns with substantial budgets dominating the media. This can affect both traditional and digital platforms, making strategic media buying essential for non-political brands.

What are some strategic planning techniques for media buying during the political season?

To plan effectively, assess your brand’s position and goals, anticipate increased advertising costs (10-20% increase), carefully consider timing and scheduling, choose the right advertising channels, craft politically-neutral messaging, and stay aware of legal considerations related to political advertising.

What are some risks associated with political season advertising?

Risks include unintentional association with political figures or ideologies, poorly timed messaging that aligns with political events, and inadequate crisis preparedness, which can lead to reputational damage and loss of customer trust.

How can brands prepare for and manage crises during the political season?

Brands can prepare by identifying potential crisis triggers, establishing a crisis response team, developing communication protocols, preparing predefined response templates, monitoring and assessing risks, and responding to crises with transparency, honesty, and agility.

What is the purpose of the Political Season Advertising Readiness Quiz?

The quiz helps brands assess their preparedness for media buying during the political season. It covers areas such as understanding the political media landscape, setting clear goals, budgeting for increased costs, timing and scheduling, choice of advertising channels, messaging neutrality, legal compliance, crisis management preparedness, and the use of analytics.

How can brands improve their readiness for political season advertising?

Brands can improve their readiness by focusing on areas where they scored lower in the quiz. This may involve refining their strategies, enhancing crisis management plans, and engaging with media buying agencies or relevant resources for guidance.

What is the key takeaway from the guide on political season advertising?

The key takeaway is that successful advertising during the political season requires careful planning, strategic decision-making, and sensitivity in messaging. Brands can stand out during this period without engaging in political discourse by understanding the challenges and adapting their strategies accordingly.

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