The Dreaded “P” Word

People tell you not to talk politics with strangers. But we are all friends here, right? So: Let’s talk politics.

Over the course of my career, I’ve been in a position to purchase media during political races many times. But not since 2008 have our clients had to prepare for a Presidential run-off with no sitting incumbent. This changes the game in a BIG way. And with so many candidates still in the mix awaiting the primaries in battleground states, this year is poised to be a tough one for advertisers that rely on local television to promote messages. Political candidates for national and state races, as well as organizations funding issues or legislation, will all be competing for the same limited number of local commercials. This competitive rate pressure has already begun in key states and will continue throughout the year.

As we approach voting dates for primaries and for the general election, advertising pressure will heat up. Additionally, beginning 45 days prior to voting day, we enter the official “political window.” During this time, all candidates are offered what we call the “lowest unit rate.” This means that they may contact a TV station to purchase commercial airtime and that they will automatically be granted the lowest commercial rate currently negotiated by ANY station advertiser.

What?! You heard right — no negotiation required.

This means that even annual advertisers are feeling the pinch as sales representatives try to keep their lowest unit rate as high as possible during political windows. They stand to gain a lot of revenue from political candidates if the rate is strong enough.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, all of this new and shiny advertising money gets priority over other advertisers. TV stations have a small amount of time to run all of the political advertising and every candidate must be given the opportunity to match the spending of their competitors. So, the schedules of regular advertisers will be bumped without a second thought. Sheesh! So, how do we deal with all this political pressure?

My job is to help my clients navigate these treacherous waters as effectively and efficiently as possible. Here are some quick tips to help avoid pitfalls during this crazy year:

  • Consult the political window dates below. If your business doesn’t rely on the window timeframes outlined, AVOID them. Hold those budgets until the window ends. But, beware — trying to get back on-air in November or December can be equally tough. All the other poor folks who had schedules bumped for political dollars will be trying to do the same thing at the same time.
  • Reallocate TV dollars to support other channels, such as cable, radio and digital channels. These other channels will have some political spending but are not subject to the same rules and regulations as traditional broadcast TV (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox).
  • AVOID buying local news during 3rd and 4th quarter. Local news is the hardest-hit time of day and it will be nearly impossible to maintain active schedules.
  • Plan for higher costs. Prepare for rate increases across the board on TV, but especially in 3rd and 4th quarter. The increase depends on your schedule and goals, but Kazoo expects 10%–20% general increases across the board — much higher during the actual political windows, especially in news.
  • Finally, relax. You have hired Kazoo — the best in the business to safeguard your advertising dollars.

Some key dates to note for Kansas and Missouri:


State Governor Incumbent Senator Incumbent Political Primary Window Presidential Primary Window
Kansas No Race Jerry Moran 6/19–8/2 1/21 – 3/5
Missouri Open Seat Roy Blunt 6/18–8/2 1/30 – 3/15

The political window for all states for the general election is Sept. 10–Nov. 8, 2016.