The uncertainty about the final outcome of the race for the White House is a temporary situation. But the condition that resulted in delayed and confused results may have a more lasting impact on what advertising, media, marketing and technology businesses face over the next four years. While Republican and Democratic partisans dig in until the final votes are counted and battleground states are called for one candidate or the other, Adweek editors checked in with observers across a variety of business segments to get a sense of what impact a reelected Trump or incoming Biden administration would have on the regulatory and cultural environment of companies and consumers. —David Kaplan
Here’s how the results will play out in five key industries:
1. Media: a regulatory reckoning
Whether it’s Biden or Trump, the next president will bring immediate consequences for the media industry, particularly when it comes to tech regulation. Twitter and Facebook called out baseless posts from Trump starting in the wee hours after polls closed. Of the two, Twitter went further, labeling five of the president’s tweets as misleading today. If he stays in office, expect social platforms to continue to crack down on inaccurate tweets from the White House and Trump’s camp to keep raising the issue of political bias in social platforms. If Biden wins, he’ll be pressured to hold social media companies to account for any knowing spread of misinformation. And either way, lawmakers from both sides will sharpen their scrutiny of how Silicon Valley tech firms handle information.
Trump has waged war on the press with unyielding energy. A Biden win would calm those waters. But publishers will have to reflect on their efficacy. “The question is, what did we really accomplish as the press?” media analyst Thomas Baekdal told Adweek. “If [the election] is this close, it means that none of our ‘holding Trump to account’ had any impact.”
Another consideration for media: how a less polarizing climate under Biden could affect booming subscription businesses. A cohort of paying consumers will surely continue supporting news brands as a political act. But the intensity of their motivation may dim, particularly if economic burdens remain crushing. —Lucinda Southern
2. TV news heading for post-election malaise
Trump often likes to predict that cable news ratings will plummet when he’s no longer in office. But the truth is that no matter which candidate is ultimately elected president, the TV industry will mourn the end to the influx of ad revenue and record ratings that it enjoyed during this election cycle. Those numbers represented a much-needed lifeline in what had been an increasingly challenged landscape for years.
The three top cable news networks—Fox News, CNN and MSNBC—all had their most-watched quarters ever this year. About $380 million was spent on TV national advertising for political ads in 2020, according to Media Radar—not only on broadcast and cable news, but also networks like HGTV, Food Network and Adult Swim. As that ad revenue dries up, networks will be hard-pressed to find replacement options during the pandemic, which has sent bottom lines plummeting.
Meanwhile, if Trump doesn’t win reelection, there are rumors he could disrupt the industry by launching a conservative network rival to Fox News. Bring it on, Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch told investors Tuesday: “We love competition. We have always thrived with competition.” —Jason Lynch
3. Brands plot their next move
Luckily for marketers, dealing with uncertainty has become de rigueur in 2020. Thank the Covid-19 pandemic for that built-in stress response.