Standing Out in a Sea of Political Ads

By the time Americans head to the polls on November 6, 2012, candidates and other political organizations will have spent a record $3.2 billion in television advertising. For small business owners, this presents a serious concern. What will happen to their advertising needs when their budgets just can’t compete with the candidates?

Election years are always challenging for advertisers, but 2012 will be even more difficult. In 2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled that funding of political advertisements by corporations and unions is protected by the first amendment. The ruling essentially created a situation in which there is no limit on how much special interest groups can contribute to candidates and their advertising. This year, experts are anticipating a 52% increase in television advertising spending over the amount spent in 2008.

The impact of the additional political spending is substantial. While many advertising mediums are affected, television is particularly hard hit. Due to the addition of political ads to the regular commercial line up, stations will have more ads to run than they have time slots to fill. We are all familiar with supply and demand, so we know that when demand is high and supply is low, price goes up. Television advertising rates will increase by approximately 15% in the weeks leading up to the election.

On top of the higher prices, political advertising takes precedence over all other ads. As we approach the election, political ads will accounts for over 50% of all television advertising. This means that many of the best time slots will be unavailable to businesses and non-political ads will be bumped to the middle of the night (think 2 a.m.) or off the air all together. Even if viewers manage to see your commercial, they suffer from “ad fatigue” during political seasons. After being barraged by a sea of political ads, consumers tune out and your advertising message will sink.

So, how does a small business effectively convey their advertising message when they do not have a $3.2 million budget? There are a few important things that small businesses can do during an election year to make their advertising budget go further and get their message noticed. Here is some advice to maximize your budget and your impact:

  • Prepare in advance and buy early: Know what’s coming and weigh your options. Where will you get the best exposure? What messages cannot be preempted? Find these opportunities and book them early, everyone will be competing for television alternatives.
  • Work with your sales reps:  Utilize the personal relationship you have with your sales representatives. Ask their advice, stay in touch and be ready to jump on any last minute offers they may have for you. Remember, they present those opportunities first to the customers that they enjoy working with, so work to maintain a good relationship.
  • Utilize more than one advertising medium: Is network television your only method of advertising? Investigate other options including cable, online advertising, radio, print and, of course, outdoor.
  • Avoid television advertising during news & primetime: Know that these are the expensive options during an election and, even if you pay top dollar, you might get preempted. Save this option for a non-election time period.
  • Plan special events around the election: If possible, schedule important sales, grand openings and other events outside the election window. You are much more likely to get media coverage and better advertising opportunities if you aren’t competing with politics.
  • CONSIDER OUTDOOR ADVERTISING – Billboards are an excellent, affordable advertising medium, particularly during an election season. Outdoor advertising is the most cost-effective mass media outlet available. Billboard advertising can never be “bumped” and the channel can never be changed – outdoor advertising is visible 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Also, billboards can now offer you more options than ever before – you can choose a traditional static board or a new, high tech digital board, which allow you to communicate multiple, dynamic messages to your target audience.

For more information on outdoor advertising, please contact us at Las Vegas Billboards. We have static and digital locations throughout the Las Vegas valley and we look forward to working with you to find the board that is right for you. Please call us at 702.837.7822  or email

Reference: “Navigating media through political season” by Mark Buchele (See article here.)