Advertising During the 2020 Political Season – What You Should Know

By Laura DiCaprio

Each Fall we ready ourselves and our media schedules for the political season. Although each year is unpredictable, our experience and access to reliable projections help us prepare for limited preemptions and schedule disruptions. So how’s 2020 shaping up so far, and what should you do to prepare?

First, let’s take a look at some 2020 projections:


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People want more transparency when it comes to political ads (Gallup, December 2019).



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Combined political ad spends will near $6 billion this election year, almost double what was spend during the midterm election season in 2018 (Advertising Analytics, July 2020).



blog 82720 3 300x214 - Advertising During the 2020 Political Season - What You Should KnowSocial media will see a huge jump in political ads and is projected to reach $2.9 billion in political advertising by the end of 2020 (Wall Street Journal, November 2019).

The big takeaway here is that it’s going to be a busy political season – lots of advertising activity on many different platforms, which means a higher chance for schedule disruptions. So, what can you do?

The more you understand the political advertising cycle the better you can prepare:

The Election Advertising Cycle – Quick Facts

  • Timing: The 45-day period preceding a primary election and the 60-day period preceding a general/special election are considered the political time periods in the media world.
  • Political Rates: During this time political candidates are entitled to the Lowest Unit Rates (LUR) when placing their media schedules.
  • Placement: Stations cannot refuse to run a candidate’s ad, nor can they show favoritism towards a particular candidate. Political advertisers generally favor live news and prime programming.

How This Will Affect Your Media Schedules

  • Preemptions: Non-political advertisers will most likely experience preemptions to accommodate political schedules. This means non-political spots will get bumped out of the programs they were originally scheduled in.
  • Higher Rates: Non-political advertisers looking to place a last-minute schedule should expect to pay higher rates since inventory is tight.

How to Plan Ahead and Manage This Disruption

  • Diversity your media plan: A media plan with multiple tactics is recommended during the political season, to ensure target audiences are reached even if television schedules are disrupted.
  • Continue open communication with your agency: Confirm they have established a swift makegood process to place any missed commercials back on air as soon as possible. Make sure they’re updating you on any schedule changes. Ask for their advice how to approach upcoming political periods.
  • Be flexible: Prepare to be flexible with your media schedule during this time. Budgets may need to be adjusted to accommodate missed commercials. This could mean moving some of your television budget into a different medium, or into a different month.
  • Be proactive. Talk to your station reps about their forecast for the political season. Understand the weeks which will have the most inventory constraints and build your plan around those.

At Wahl Media we manage both sides of this spectrum – we represent both political candidates and non-political advertisers. No matter who we’re representing we approach every change to their media schedule transparently, to ensure that everyone involved is aware of, and comfortable with, any changes made during this unpredictable season.