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2014’s Political Ad Spend Will be Big and In Your Face

By STRATA May 13, 2014 | 12:22pm

The recent Supreme Court decision that struck down old regulations that limited the amount of money individuals can give federal candidates and parties is just the latest addition to a long list of reasons as to why 2014 will be the most expensive years for political ad spend.

Some of these factors are unique to the 2014 elections, and some will reemerge for the foreseeable future to be mainstays of political advertising campaigns. For now, the heated political climate will be a major boon for local advertisers with political ads coming early and often to stations near you.

Political advertising today, along with politics itself, is not the same as it was a few decades ago. Ronald Reagan once famously uttered the 11th Commandment; “Thou shall not attack another Republican.” The mantra no longer strikes the fear of God into the Republican Party. The Tea Party is forcing previously established Republican incumbents to start fighting for their political lives in the primaries, instead of in the general elections. At least twelve Republican primary races will be heavily contested, and that number may grow. One closely watched race is in Idaho’s 2nd District, which pundits are calling “ground zero” for the party’s proxy fight. In that district, Representative Mike Simpson is seeking a ninth term against some stiff competition from a Tea Party candidate, Bryan Smith, with no prior political experience. This type of political infighting for the future of the Republican Party is going to cost the GOP candidates a lot of money before they even start facing off against their Democratic rivals. In fact, political ads have already started running in Idaho as early as September 2013

Election campaigns, for both Democrats and Republicans, will also rely on a strong social media and digital focus. Each serious candidate will hire a team of social media specialists. In 2012, we saw the presidential candidates not only on Facebook and Twitter, but even utilizing Spotify, Pinterest, and Tumblr in more creative ways. In addition, the fight for votes will reach more corners of the Internet, with the candidates’ social media teams trolling through the comments sections of major newspapers posting positive comments about their candidates. 

Locally, candidates with smaller budgets will use social media to close the gap between themselves and more established candidates with larger budgets. A good example of social media helping the little guy is in Stockton, California, where Anthony Silva was able to remove incumbent Mayor Ann Johnston with a well-timed text message that contained a link to a YouTube video. There’s no longer a debate about the need for social media in a political campaign. The only question that remains is how much to invest? 

Even with the growth in digital spending, TV will remain king. Local stations will experience the biggest revenue increases as Congressmen fight over votes in closely contested districts and counties. Earlier last year, Gannett purchased 20 local stations for $1.5 billion, while the Tribune Company paid $2.7 billion for 19 stations, all of which look like lucrative investments because of the amount of political spending they attract. 

So with all these factors at play this year, how is 2014’s ad cycle going to differ from years past? We expect to see a huge bump in advertisement transactions long before August, through our ePort system, which is used to buy and sell local spot TV advertising. In 2014, we expect to see double the ad spend we saw in the last presidential election in 2012. We even witnessed ePort pass $1 billion in April and will likely pass $3 billion well before year’s end. 

This is all great news for the ad industry, especially on the local level, but I do feel for those who want to avoid these ads, a task that I feel will be impossible to achieve. Political ads are going to start earlier than we’ve ever experienced in the past, and they’re going to appear more often. After all, breaking the 11th commandment is going to cost political campaigns billions of dollars. With all that money spent, they’ll want to make sure you take notice. 

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