Political Advertising & Out of Home Media

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Political Advertising & Out of Home Media

Often times, as political elections draw near, we refer to this time as “silly season” as we are bombarded with bombastic statements from candidates vying for local, state, and national office in for the form of endless TV ads. Consumers are suffocated by non-stop political ads during all day parts, often with back-to-back-to-back spots. The amount of money spent on political ads is downright “silly” yet candidates nationwide, election after election, gladly write out massive checks to the likes of NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, and local/national cable channels because donors want to see their preferred candidate on the airwaves. But does it work and is it a wise expenditure of donations? Numerous are the examples of candidates who outspend their opponent yet lose elections year after year as their campaign staff points fingers at one another.

Lost in this cacophony of :30 and :60 TV ads is how little, comparatively, is spent on out-of-home media to reach constituents. Out-of-home media spending continues to increase year after year yet candidates are reluctant to embrace this medium where they can control message while also geographically targeting voters in a city, district, county, region, or state.

According to Kantar Media, government, politics, and organizations was the top growth category for out-of-home media in 2014 (25% growth from 2012 to 2014). This growth demonstrates an increased willingness for candidates and political action committees to use out-of-home media to reach voters. Political advertising in 2016 is forecasted to exceed $4 billion dollars (Washington Analysis, LLC) with over 80% of that spend still going to TV buys (Kantar Media).

Research from the US Department of Labor and the US Census Bureau demonstrates that consumers spend 70% of their waking hours away from home. This represents an excellent opportunity to reach the engaged electorate who are increasingly becoming more loathe to political ads on TV. These ads are slowly morphing into white noise for which time-shifted TV viewing (DVRs) have saturated the home TV landscape as a method to avoid commercials.

Out-of-home media has experienced sustained, reliable growth in the past decade much of this attributed to the continued rollout of digital billboards and, now, digital place-based media (e.g. digital screens in airports, health clubs, malls, etc). These out-of-home tactics represent innovative ways for brands to engage with consumers to deliver timely and relevant content in a hyper-localized setting.

The argument for political advertisers to increase their out-of-home media budgets has become more apparent. Gone are the days of buying single TV spots to reach a majority of the electorate during primetime. Ever-increasing channel options, DVRs, NetFlix, and other ad-repellent technology should now force the hands of political campaigns to re-examine their entire media budget. Out-of-home media has the highest reach of any ad format (USA TouchPoints) and will amplify other media in a campaign yet will still have a very low CPM. Additionally, out-of-home media over-indexes the crucial voting blocs of employed 25-54 year olds with HHI of $50-75k+. On a local/state level, out-of-home media is key as it has the ability to target ads completely within a voting district thus greatly cutting down, or eliminating, spillover that a campaign undoubtedly encounters with TV and radio ads. Moreover, with the advent of digital out-of-home technology, candidates may now immediately respond to their opponent to control message during a campaign faster than traditional media channels.

The 2016 political “silly” season has already started in earnest and will only increase in volume going forward. Out-of-home media should be poised to capture more of the overall political spend if campaigns are willing to embrace its usefulness.

Chris Haworth

Vice President, Client Partnerships