Sunday, September 11, 2011

Purchasing Political Media With A Limited Campaign Budget

This year the political fundraising challenge is more difficult than ever. A Texas candidate who in the last election cycle was able to raise nearly two million dollars for a statewide race has found that fundraising, even in Texas, a State that has escaped the brunt of economic hardship, is very difficult. Even with major endorsements and strong name recognition, the weakness of our economy has become reality for political candidates. The effect of this shortfall impacts the campaign forty-five days before Election Day when political media rates become available and campaigns consume the lower cost air time quickly to lock in the best dates and times. Without the funds on hand at that the beginning of the political media window, candidates will find themselves with less desirable times available to purchase, if any availabilities remain.How political media is purchased continues to evolve. When media outlets were first mandated to sell commercials at the lowest rate (this is the lowest rate paid for a commercial by a non-political advertiser during the past year), the "political rate" was born. The media outlet had one rate card for political candidates. One rate purchased a commercial that aired anytime during the day. If the candidate purchased enough of these low rates, they were certain to have their commercial air during all "Day Parts" (6AM-10AM, 10AM-3PM, etc). In radio, morning drive time is the coveted "Day Part" charging the highest fee per commercial. In television the evening prime time is the most expensive "Day Part" to purchase. With the advent of "Day Parts" the political rate card now had different prices depending on the time of day. In both the original form and the "Day Parts" form the common element was the same. If stations accepted the political money for specific day parts, they had to air the commercials, often at the expense of local businesses willing to pay the larger, non-political rate. A solution was needed. Innovation and profit motives combined to create the current method of purchasing political media. Today's political rate card still has the lowest rates offered to any non-political advertiser, but the rate card for the non-political advertiser has changed, thus changing the political rate card. The rate card continues to be divided by "Day Parts", but Candidates are now offered two rates for each day part. "non-preemptible" and "preemptible". "Non-preemptible" are the most expensive. This means the station guarantees to air the spot at the requested date and time. You pay (always cash in advance with political media buys) and the commercial will air. With "preemptible, the rates are usually at least 20-30% lower, but you have no guarantee that your commercial will air. You pay and submit a schedule, but if another candidate or non-political advertiser pays the "non-preemptible" rate, your commercial gets "bumped". If they have time before the election, the station will try to "make good" and place your commercial on another day. If you need your message out the days before Election Day, this is not a viable alternative. In most cases, six weeks after Election Day the campaign receives a refund check from the media outlet for commercials that did not air because they were "bumped." If you won, no problem, if will always wonder what might have been. One solution to budget shortfalls and escalating political advertising costs is found at Low cost, high quality commercial production and micro targeted media placement on local cable and/or radio. The success stories keep growing. Budgets of any size are finding success. There is very little guesswork in media placement with the information available today. Voters are reached, persuaded and most of all motivated to vote for our clients.