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Automotive Marketing in an Election (and COVID) Year: 5 Basic Strategies for Success

20/20 Isn’t Perfect. Neither is Advertising During Political.

 

As if election years aren’t wild enough, 2020 has handed us COVID-19, introduced us to murder hornets and has further fueled the theory UFOs exist. It’s only May, people! If only we could reach for the remote and fast-forward through the undesirable content of 2020 to reach, what we hope, is more palatable programming in 2021. Unfortunately, this content is non-skippable. The virus is here and the elections are coming. Feel-good messaging will soon enough be replaced again with dramatic and repetitive political punches.

Nothing jacks-up a media landscape more than an election year. During the “political window”, lowest unit rates (LURs) are mandated, bonus inventory disappears, and clearance becomes a nightmare. If you don’t know your political window dates, stop reading and Google them. Efficiencies and opportunities will be lost if you’re inexperienced and rest on your haunches.

Moving forward in any political year, virus or not, requires five basic strategies for success.

  • Set & Communicate Standards – Give your media partners clear expectations regarding inventory issues and make-good opportunities. You want to know what is happening before it happens. The quicker you know the situation and your options, the quicker you can move. Don’t relax your standards. Redefine and communicate them. –
  • Have Plans B and C Ready – Evaluate the presence of less pre-emptable inventory in your mix during politically-congested months. A couple thoughts: most OTT and Streaming/Digital Radio are a valuable part of our mixes now; they are as close to a protected class as you’ll get. If you are not currently utilizing these outlets, research them! News inventory is traditionally hit the hardest during election season. Perhaps steer away from it and explore alternatives like consistently higher-rated programming on Cable and Network TV. Adjust your strategy, not your goals.
  • Do Your Pre-Books Early –  The early bird may not always get the worm, but they certainly have the best shot at it!  When clearing political spends, the lowest rates and the last placed will be evicted from the station log first. Hold your ground by honoring fair rates and by placing your schedules 6-12 months in advance. Media partners should honor a two-week adjustment or cancellation policy if changes need to be made. Safety first!
  • Leverage the Law of Averages – Don’t be duped into thinking you need to pay higher rates all year, or that added value isn’t available “because of political” in 2020. Inside the window, you will need the LUR and bonus is technically a no-no. However, don’t hesitate to negotiate lower rates and added value warranting your annual spend levels to clear outside the window. Ideally, it should all average out. Pay more in the window and less outside!
  • Maintain Agility (You Can’t Fake It) – Either you’re on the ball or you’re not. If you sat back while advertisers pulled off the air earlier this year because of COVID-19, you missed the boat. When inventory is flush, deals can be made. Many CBC clients are reaping the benefits of reduced rates and increased bonus inventory now, and in some cases through June. Capitalizing on opportunities and quickly shifting strategies fuel success. Media buys aren’t like Crock-Pots; you don’t set and forget them.  Look for opportunities to take gains and be quick about it!

These basics apply every political year.  This year’s window may adjust as events unfold. Inventory and pricing will fluctuate more than in the past.  Stay on your toes, work your relationships, and always look to get more for less!

If you’re in need of a more proactive approach to your automotive marketing planning, let’s have a conversation.

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