The Media Buying Political Advertising Frenzy for 2016 is Here

Author: Elizabeth Tower
Posted: Sep 17, 2015

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you are probably aware that things are already gearing up for the 2016 elections. The primaries (especially Republican) have been dominating the local and national news.


During the 2012 media buying cycle I was working as a media buyer and it changed my political views to just generally hating all parties. Why you ask?

As a media buyer, part of my job is purchasing commercial airtime for my clients at negotiated rates in areas to target the demographic for that campaign. However, it becomes very hard to do this job during political as the airwaves are flooded with political advertising. Below is a lovely graphic illustrating the almost $900 million spent for presidential candidates in the 2012 election.


To give you some perspective this is more than Toyota, Ford, Wal-Mart or Macy’s spent that year. Also, that number only accounts for presidential races. If you include all political spending for 2012 (Senate, House, state questions, etc.) there was a staggering $2.9 billion spent on local market TV.

This means that there were A LOT more people (and dollars) trying to get the same inventory. It pushes everything around and often out. Pre-empts (spots that did not air as scheduled) are an all too familiar thing. The schedule you had planned for is often no longer possible. Let’s go over a few things…

The political advantage:

  • Deep pockets – between regular campaigns and Super PACs there is a lot of money that allows them to pay more per spot than your client can afford or an amount that is truly not worth the placement.
  • Political Windows - 45 days prior to the primary and 60 days prior to the general election campaigns are guaranteed the lowest rate possible and are given priority over other placements. The purpose of this is to make things even among campaigns.

The good news:

  • Buying in Oklahoma markets we are less affected by presidential spend. We are a very red state and republican presidential candidates don’t need to do much to get a win. In 2012 Romney won every county with almost no advertising at all.
  • You can always be adaptable! There are so many ways to advertise. You just might have to rethink your strategy if it was heavy in TV during an election season.

What to expect in 2016:

  • A crazy republican primary. Although, Oklahoma might not get much (or any) of this spend, it will be record breaking on a national level.
  • Digital spend will be higher than ever before. Since the last election the targeting capabilities have greatly increased. Ad Age predicts $1 billion in digital ad spend. While that number sounds high, it is actually only 9.5% of the overall spend prediction.

For continued reading, here are some articles about expected political spends: 

  1. Why Political Ads are Going to Reach a Record in 2016

  2. Programmatic Buying Coming to the Political Arena in 2016 

  3. Marketers Take Advantage of Programatic Media Buying

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