What Marketers Can Learn from Political Campaigns

July 15, 2019

By Steve Lanzano


There are no second chances when it comes to political elections. If political campaigns want to win, they have to choose the most effective platform to raise awareness among the electorate and get out the vote. In the high-stakes world of political advertising, campaigns continue to choose TV as the go-to marketing vehicle. The 2018 midterm election, for example, was a testament to TV's power to inform and persuade voters, with $5.25 billion spent on advertising and the lion's share going to local broadcast TV. It was the most money spent on any election overall, according to Kantar.

Political campaign managers confirm TV's effectiveness at persuading voters time and again when asked what marketing strategies really work. According to Kyle Roberts, president and CEO of Advertising Analytics, which tracks campaign ad spending, "2018 was uncertain in every way; the volatility was unprecedented. It's why we saw candidates and campaigns go back to what is tried and true: if you use TV, it reaches voters and they listen. TV works."

So, what are some of the reasons political campaigns rely on television, and what can brand marketers learn from such strategies?


Voters and Consumers Trust TV

In a political climate rife with accusations of "fake news," and plummeting confidence in social media platforms stemming from concerns about privacy, the topic of trust dominates marketing industry conferences and media headlines. At this year's ANA Media Conference, Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of CPG giant Procter & Gamble, addressed the issues regarding the media supply chain. "Digital media continues to grow exponentially, and with it, a dark side persists," Pritchard said. "Waste continues to exist from lack of transparency and fraud." He added that "privacy breaches and consumer data misuse keep occurring. Unacceptable content continues to be available and is still being viewed alongside our brands."

So why should marketers trust TV? Not only is it safe content and free from data abuse issues, it's trusted by consumers and voters alike. According to the 2018 Research Now SSI Voter Funnel Study, which was conducted immediately following the 2018 midterm election, 59 percent of respondents said fake news was most prevalent on social media, while just 6 percent cited local broadcast TV. What's more, a 2019 GfK Media Comparisons Study found that local broadcast TV was the most trusted news source compared to all of the other media platforms, including digital and social.


TV Still Packs the Biggest Consumer Punch

There's a popular myth circulating throughout marketing and advertising precincts that digital will overtake and replace TV. But the data and research don't support it. In Nielsen's "Total Audience" report, adults 18+ spent 29-plus hours weekly watching traditional TV programming. To convey the significance of these numbers, let's look at video viewing on smartphones. Adults 18+ only spent one hour and 15 minutes viewing video on their smartphones.

Both political campaigns and brand managers know that for immediate reach, nothing beats TV. It would take billions of videos on social media — running for a month — to reach what broadcast TV can deliver in a few days. That's why TV is effective at winning elections, creating top of the funnel brand awareness, and cultivating consumer connections.


Getting out the Vote, Making a Purchase

TV's huge reach helps campaigns and brands raise awareness of candidates and products, but it's also effective for bottom of the funnel sales. Two marketing funnel studies, Research Now SSI's Voter Funnel study, and GfK's Purchase Funnel study, found that TV topped other media for driving consumers and voters to action. What's more, 66 percent of voters said television actually motivated them to vote and 43 percent of consumers said TV influenced them the most to make a purchase. To contrast, the next closest media to spur purchasing were newspapers (31 percent) and social media (5 percent).

This is why local broadcast TV gets the lion's share of political ad dollars and, according to Kantar Media, why tech giants like Google and Facebook spend around 80 percent of their ad budgets on TV. It works. But it's not just Google and Facebook. Direct-to-consumer brands are turning to TV when digital marketing alone doesn't lead to sales growth.

Political campaign strategies are the ultimate exercise in marketing because there is no second chance. As political planners and buyers choose TV time and again, brand marketers should take notice. TV is trusted by consumers, raises awareness, drives action, and reaches the most people compared to any other medium. But don't take it from me. The headlines touting the benefits of TV-ad buying speak for themselves.

Steve Lanzano is president and CEO of TVB, a partner in the ANA Thought Leadership Program. You can email him at Steve@tvb.org.


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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