10 ways to win the media strategy game in an election year

Raise your hand if you can predict what will happen in November 2024.

Right, didn’t think so.

Nobody knows the future, but we can be pretty sure that a lot of Americans will be tuned in to see what happens this year. And all our hope, wonder, anticipation, frustration, and fear will almost certainly lead to a big boost in Americans’ media consumption, as it does every election cycle.

According to eMarketer’s US Election 2024: Media Use and Digital Ad Spending Forecast, news consumption will surge across digital platforms, with social media emerging as a primary source of election-related information for many Americans. Traditional news outlets are also expected to experience a surge in viewership, especially their video content. CTV is anticipated to grow significantly, with 45 percent of digital ad spend going into this inventory. In light of these trends, media experts predict a heightened level of engagement with election-related content across various media channels.

Good news or bad news? Check your paid media budget and goals.

Increased media consumption would seem to be a net positive for brands. When more people consume media, you have more opportunity to reach and connect with existing and prospective audiences, right? Probably, but it’s not a slam dunk. With political campaigns vying for attention and ad space, brands face more competition and higher advertising costs across multiple platforms.

  • Political ad spending is expected to exceed US$12B in 2024—three times more than in 2016. It’s projected to be the most expensive election of all time.
  • Digital, in particular, is expected to increase by 30 percent compared to already high spending in previous election years. And within linear television, because of the FCC’s equal time rule, there will likely be greater competition for candidate TV ad slots due to generally limited inventory.
  • Election coverage—especially this year—might be very compelling. But that could make it more difficult for brands to capture the hearts and minds of key audiences. Additionally, because of the increased use of misleading information in some political spheres, audiences might be more reluctant to believe brand stories and offers.

10 things you can do to beat the competition this year

Experience, smarts, and effort are table stakes in this market. Fortunately, you’ve probably got those covered. Here are 10 specific actions your brand can take to achieve your goals this year:

  1. Strategize with purpose. Develop a comprehensive advertising strategy that considers the political stance of your brand first and foremost—how active do you want to be in the election conversation (if at all)? Then factor in the election timeline and anticipate shifts in consumer behavior by using data and insights from past election cycles. Consider components such as the timing of key events (debates, primaries), demographic voting patterns, and regional differences in media consumption.
  2. Manage your channels. Monitor channel allocations closely, and be prepared to adjust spending in real time based on market dynamics and changes in audience responses.
  3. Segment your audience (even more than usual). Review audience insights and refine your targeting strategies. When segmenting audiences, weigh factors like political affiliation, demographic characteristics, and psychographic traits to ensure that key targets will be receptive to your message this summer and fall.
  4. Retarget strategically. Your audiences will be inundated with retargeted political messages. So be sure that your retargeting strategy addresses audience sensitivity and messaging fatigue. Test different ad formats and creative variations to determine what resonates best.
  5. Lean into engagements. Find opportunities to drive interactions with your audiences to capture the limited mindshare during the election season. Focus on creating interactive and immersive experiences that encourage interactions (e.g., polls, quizzes, and user-generated content) and foster brand loyalty.
  6. Amplify content beyond paid channels. Leverage organic and earned channels to increase the reach of content to audiences who are already engaging with your brand. Identify key influencers and thought leaders who can help extend key messages while regularly engaging on social media to increase community participation.
  7. Test messaging early and often. Shorter audience attention spans will require you to test messaging and creative formats and lengths to find what will resonate with different segments. Also be aware of political and cultural conversations, and craft messages that are mindful of potentially sensitive topics to avoid possible censorship.
  8. Build in time for potential creative roadblocks. Anticipate bottlenecks to launch; platforms are likely to increase creative reviews to ensure compliance with platform guidelines. Search and social platforms, in particular, will require longer asset QA times to launch programs.
  9. Consider regional messaging (or at least differences). If you’re focusing on local products, be mindful of differences in political sentiment, cultural norms, and language preferences of your audiences.
  10. Have a game plan for quick, unexpected program adjustments. With increased volatility over the next few months, monitoring campaign performance will be even more important. Being prepared to quickly adjust creative and programs based on changing market conditions will be a requirement, not just a “nice to have.”

Plan with confidence, win with performance

The 2024 election isn’t happening soon—it’s happening already. The better you plan, the better you can position your brand for success.

Want to learn more about strategies, trends, and ways to build, implement, or measure your plan? Get in touch with Teresa Lau, CMD’s digital media director.

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