What Marketers Need to Know About Election Night: Tuesday’s First Things First

Plus, the most memorable campaigns of the 2020 season

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Headshot of Jess Zafarris

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We’ve finally reached one of the most anticipated—and dreaded—days of an already harrowing year as the U.S. awaits initial election night results. Here’s what advertisers, marketers and media professionals need to know about election night, how we got here and how things will progress.

How TV’s 2020 Election Night Coverage Will Look Different From 2016

Over at TVNewser, senior editor A.J. Katz has been talking to executives from the major outlets about how they are covering the election and their plans for the big night. Find out what Fox, ABC, CBS, PBS, NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo are planning—and what they’ll do if the race isn’t called Tuesday night. 

Related: Four years after Stephen Colbert’s first election night Showtime appearance, he’s returning to host another live special.

How Social Media Platforms Are Handling the Election

Instead of taking a hands-off approach as in years past, social media platforms have been hard at work overhauling the way they manage (or ban) misinformation and election ads. Whether they’re actually helping or not is debatable, but here’s what they have cooking:

How the Election Could Blow Up Holiday Retail Projections

The election is, well, really distracting, and that means that holiday shopping for the week is forecast to drop $300 million, or 13% year over year, on Nov. 4. It’s nothing new for election years—2016 showed a similar drop. Holiday shopping tends to pick up again after that, but this year is unlike any other. Prolonged uncertainty—not only around the pandemic, but also possibly around the actual election results—could represent a bigger hit as Americans await closure.

An emotional year: High voter turnout and high stakes mean people are more emotionally attached to this election.

The Most Memorable Ads Campaigns of Election Season

Variously happy, harrowing, heartwarming and hilarious, these ads and campaigns defined the tone of marketing in the run-up to the election.

  • IPG agency Huge rolled out a nationwide ad campaign that encouraged people to take a “sick of it day” to cast their ballots.
  • Oreo went for the heartstrings in an adorable ad that encouraged Americans to come together just days before the election.
  • Social distancing restrictions and mail-in voting meant that many of us didn’t get our “I Voted” stickers this year. Fortunately, you can still get one from your local Krispy Kreme.
  • A last-minute anti-Trump ad for the Win America Back political action committee asks whether you would hire Donald Trump.
  • A political ad by a team of Wieden+Kennedy colleagues heartbreakingly combines both the majesty and the scavenger nature of the bald eagle to send a message about voter participation.
  • “Vote for Them” from GSP for the Courageous Conversation Global Foundation (CCGF) uses familiar political signage designs to remind people that their vote matters for the memory of Black police brutality victims.
  • Do you wish you could live under a rock until after the election? Hotels.com ran a campaign that allowed a select few people to spend November 2nd to 7th at an undisclosed underground location in New Mexico with no wifi or cable news. 
  • In a parody video, marketing stunt agency WhoIsTheBaldGuy claimed that it was responsible for the fly that landed on Mike Pence’s hair during the VP debate—and other instances of flies landing on politicians to strategically “distract viewers.” 
  • The New York Times teamed up with Droga5 and Hearts & Science on a Snapchat AR lens—an extension of “The Truth Is Essential” campaign—that lets Snapchatters click see election-specific sections on NYTimes.com.


@JessZafarris jessica.zafarris@adweek.com Jess Zafarris is an audience engagement editor at Adweek.
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