The election is coming: why marketers should care and how to prepare

History shows elections have a profound impact on the advertising industry and marketers need to be ready. Ben Willee explains. 

There’s a federal election coming our way in early 2022. I for one am looking forward to munching on a democracy sausage or two. But it won’t all be tomato sauce and onions for adland with the Grand Final of Australian politics historically having its way with the industry.

Why is that? First and foremost, the lead up to a federal election always sees a massive injection of cash into media owners’ coffers.

The last election in May 2019 was an advertising spending bonanza. The Liberal Party forked out $14.5 million and Labor $13.3 million. Meanwhile, the biggest spender was Clive Palmer coughing up an estimated $50 to $55 million

These figures were quite the jump considering estimates put the 2016 federal election spend at $6 million for LNP and $4.7 million for ALP.

It’d be safe to assume those numbers will increase again in 2022. But the point is the squeeze this will put on inventory. There’s only so many spots, dots and bus shelters you can stick an ad. And, if Clive has beaten you to it, you’re going to be out of luck.

The other impact of elections is a slowing of the economy and erosion of consumer confidence. Or perhaps that’s old school thinking. We used to dislike our politicians incessantly throwing mud at each other, but that’s the new normal so we may be off the hook on that one. 

So, what can you do to ensure the election doesn’t mess with your 2022 strategy?

The best thing to do is figure out your media plan ASAP and lock it down. If you’re not able to do that, you have a couple of options.

Get creative

Empower your agencies to make great work. I’ve seen enough models to know the single biggest variable in ad performance is creative. Good creative can deliver many times the ROI than less interesting creative. I think of it this way, it’s more of a risk to be dull. With the pollies shouting at people from every direction, being creative is an effective way to rise above the noise.

Test and learn

There has never been a better time to test and learn.  It’s cheap and easy. And when you get it right, you have more tools in the toolbox for when the unexpected happens. 

At the moment there are some really interesting things happening in audio. The research tells us that we are consuming the same amount, just in different ways. Anyone else say, “Hey Google, play the news headlines”? Not to mention the complete explosion of the podcast sector. Right now, there are more podcasts than botoxed reality TV contestants. Some of the botoxed reality contestants even have their own podcasts. 

With audio formats currently undervalued by advertisers, it’s a great time to give it a burl. You’ll also benefit from a lack of clutter, a challenge plenty of channels will face when election advertising ramps up. 

Focus on your owned media strategy

If the pending death of cookies hasn’t already scared the bejesus out of you and got you building your own database using first-party data, maybe this will. Having a treasure trove of actionable data that allows you to personalise your messages and speak to your customers via email marketing and other owned channels will give you a highly effective capability that won’t be crunched by paid inventory availability.

Build attribution/econometric models 

Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Put simply, these models use proven mathematical techniques to identify the relationship between advertising and leads/sales/awareness. It can be done relatively cheaply, in most cases for a cost of less than five per cent of your total media spend. 

By improving efficiency, it would be unusual if the model didn’t pay for itself and then some. Not to mention the added credibility when you go to the boss with a range of scenarios based on delivering more with less. Think of this as your insurance policy if the election does see consumer confidence crash.

The other thing to bear in mind in an election year is the fallout for media owners in the preceding months. Following the 2016 federal election, SMI data found year-on-year agency bookings declined almost 10 percent. And you know what that means: more availability and cheaper inventory. Remember to factor that into your plans.

Regardless of who gets elected, whether it’s Scomo or Albo, if you get cracking now, you’ll be able to enjoy that democracy sausage stress free. Grab me one while you’re there.

Ben Willee is the general manager and media director of Spinach.