Navigating TV Waters in a Political Storm: 2018 Elections

11.01.17 / Brandon Welch / Advertising

Every election cycle brings its own kind of anticipation – and lots of money. For past cycles as well as the current one, here's what can be expected in the 2018 midterm elections. Cast off – let the docking lines go, and let’s get under way. All aboard!

Agencies, TV stations, and media consultants across the nation are certainly anticipating the storm brewing inside the D.C. Beltway. As we enter another political year in 2018 with two advertising windows upon us (both the primary and general elections), it will be yet another eye-opening experience for all parties involved, pun intended! There is a different feel to the city right now, good or bad, but definitely different. Everyone is looking at the way they conducted business in 2016…and it’s changing. That being said, there are some clear signals from the Crow’s nest of things to come.

If you’re looking for storm surge in the 2018 political cycle, all you have to do is look at the gubernatorial races being held this November (2017). One is the highly competitive fight in the swing state of Virginia, while it seems to be smooth sailing ahead for the New Jersey Democrat (who has a comfortable lead in the polls). There are 36 additional races being held in 2018, and the ramp up started months ago. At least half of these battles are in toss-up states and have no incumbents running. The high number of open seats should spur a considerable amount of marketing activity. The states that will be in play next year are: AL, AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, KS, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NH, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VT, WI & WY.

Buckle up for tumultuous waters in the multibillion-dollar fight for control of the Senate next year. Thirty-three senators are up for re-election in 2018, including 23 Democrats, two Independents, and eight republicans. Of course, the political conditions could change dramatically between now and next November, resulting in major shifts in the Senate’s current 52-48 partisan balance. And there’s no question that both parties and their special interest allies will spend billions of dollars to influence the results. While it is written law that political “candidates” receive the lowest rate available on air, the “issue” dollars being spent (i.e., Super PACs) must pay the same rate as all other advertisers.

The Captain (TVB - Television Bureau of Advertising) has helped us know the ropes, already estimating total spend by medium in 2018 and comparing it to the last midterm elections of 2014:

Total Ad Spend Estimated in 2018 = $3 Billion+

Local TV Political Spend Estimate for 2018 = $2.4 Billion

Political Spend in 2014 was $2.1 Billion

Local Cable Political Spend Estimate for 2018 = $850,000

Political Spend in 2014 was $600,000

Digital Estimate for 2018 for Political = $6 Million

Political Spend in 2014 was $2.5 Million

Ultimately, there are Congressional seats that – prior to the current political climate – were thought to be locked in and not going to be challenged. That’s no longer the case. With Steve Bannon’s influence on the primary election for Republicans, there may be a windfall and lifeboat for Democrats in the general election. Again, this comes full circle to media buyers and our relationship to station’s inventory. Batten down the hatches, as it even seems inventory has already tightened up since Labor Day in certain markets creating a tsunami wave for next year. Although these midterm elections will not prove to be quite as strenuous on negotiations and stewardship as a presidential one, media buyers across the nation will still need to fasten their seat belts to endure the bumpy waters.

There’s only one way we’ll keep our “vessels” afloat and avoid sea sickness – all hands on deck and full steam ahead!!!

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