Every two years, media buyers and planners have come to expect a influx of political advertising. However, this year the overwhelming amount of political ads may make it even more difficult for small and local businesses to advertise on TV.
Thanks in part to an obscure law that gives candidates for president and congress equal time for advertising on broadcast stations. Stations may have to start bumping commercial advertisers on an epidemic scale to accommodate candidates that are being outspent by their opponents.
Under U.S. communications law, federal office-seekers have a right to "reasonable access" to advertising opportunities. This is a perk Congress carved out for itself and for candidates for president.
No other advertisers -- not commercial advertisers nor political groups nor even state and local candidates -- are given the same guaranteed access to a broadcaster's airwaves.
This law may be invoked by Democrats from President Barack Obama's campaign to Senate and House candidates. They may begin to aggressively press stations for equal time to counter the GOP's Super Pac money that will dominant the airwaves.
The Democratic and Republican National Committees already have aired a collective $40 million in ads "approved" or "authorized" by their respective presidential nominees. At the Senate and House level, the amount of coordinated advertising will explode after Labor Day.
Many broadcasters have seen this coming within their own markets, especially in swing states like Ohio and Florida. Many media buyers may have been promised choice make-goods by certain stations when they are preempted.
Stations have been counting on all this political money because they know that these groups have a fixed goal post of November 6 and a willingness to pay whatever it takes. Unfortunately local retailer and car dealers don’t have that luxury.
Stations have hiked their rates in anticipation leaving many advertisers unable to meet their media goals.
State and local campaigns don’t have the same rules as federal candidates. Broadcasters are not legally required to sell ads to state and local office-seekers. However, if they do decide to sell to a candidate, the equal time provision kicks in.
Small local companies need to explore alternatives to broadcast advertising for the next several months. Media buyers need to decide what programming they can extort from stations in return for the preemptions.