Media Needs to Start Preparing Now for the Post-Election Boom

They also need to accommodate advertisers who lose slots to politicians

For all the talk about the immediate effect of unprecedented political advertising in 2020—politicians crowding primetime, filling media coffers while edging out staple advertisers—there’s been little said about what happens after the party’s over. I see two ramifications with lasting impact on the media business where advertising is expected to slow down in 2021.

On one hand, 2020 will give a big boost to radio and out-of-home media as advertisers scramble to replace the TV reach that politicians have bought out and rediscovered their reliability and flexibility. On the other hand, TV networks and station groups must confront an unprecedented challenge: how to keep those advertisers displaced by the politicians engaged with their platforms while re-engaging with other media.

The upshot is that media selling won’t be the same again. TV networks won’t recover the non-political spend that got crowded out with the same old strategies, tactics and formats. And radio and out of home will have to create long-term opportunities that extend their newfound demand. Neither is automatic.

Research shows that many advertisers are already poised to take advantage of radio and out of home in 2020. To keep advertisers beyond next year, though, radio and out-of-home sellers will need to partner with advertisers at a new level.

The long-term opportunities depend on in-depth media planning using the media’s various assets in creative, sustainable ways. Specifically, they need to help advertisers understand which dayparts, content types, promotions and creative drive real business outcomes and translate that knowledge into precise, winning programs for brands.

As the TV audience configuration gets more complex, advertisers will need more help on two levels. First, how brands can balance advertising on linear, connected TV and a growing array of other digital assets. Second, how brands can best do this in the context of their overall media buys. Sellers will need to bring their insights teams forward to do this job.

TV sellers will also need to embrace test mode, with ad formats and with advertisers. The sales that define their futures increasingly won’t be the big buys, but will instead be cross-platform projects that start smaller and grow incrementally. That’s particularly true of DTC startups stretching into TV. New DTC advertisers will only commit to smaller initial buys and expand their investment rapidly when they see results.

An essential part of the test will be innovation in ad formats. For example, we’re seeing the beginnings of innovation in Hulu’s new binge-ad program. These kinds of tests need to become standard practice throughout TV to give advertisers new approaches to relevance, resonance and results. New still sells.

Media now sells into an advertiser community whipsawed by change. More than anything else, advertisers are weary. They don’t just want reliable; they need justifiable, and they need it easy. The biggest digital platforms do this, and the rest of the media ecosystem must follow. If legacy media sellers answer the call, they can again be embraced as a primary strategic marketing resource. But they’re going to have to make a complete, organizational commitment to do it.