3 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Political Advertising (But Should)

Unlike most other forms of advertising, political advertising comes with a lot of strings attached (aka, rules). So, to make sure you’re caught up on the basics, we’ve put together this handy guide for political advertising to help you get your campaigns up and running without a hitch.

3 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Political Advertising (But Should)

The U.S. General Election is right around the corner, which basically means that we’re soon going to be pummeled by political advertising left and right (no pun intended). This will be especially true for parts of the country where hotly-contested showdowns are taking place.
That’s just one reason why now’s the time for politicians, PACS, and non-profit organizations to start planning their campaigns, so they’re ready to go once we enter the final stretch in September. However, unlike most other forms of advertising, political advertising is unique in that it comes with a lot of strings attached (aka, rules). So, to make sure you’re caught up on the basics, we’ve put together this handy guide for political advertising to help you get your campaigns up and running without a hitch.

Out-of-home advertising is perfect for political advertisers

Obviously, we’re a little biased since we live and breathe out-of-home advertising each and every single day. But setting that aside, there are still a few reasons why OOH ads are a great tool for political advertisers to add to their political advertising arsenal. Here’s why:

  • Trust: Compared to other advertising media channels, out-of-home tends to rank high on the trust scale due to what we like to call its “legitimizing effect.” This is supported by Vistar Media’s recent research where it found that 58% of consumers are very likely or likely to believe messaging in OOH ads compared to TV, social media, and digital.

    Unlike creepy digital ads that seem to know what you’re thinking and then follow you around the internet for days, OOH ads are inherently non-invasive and non-threatening. As The Drum puts it, “OOH is a democratized medium [that] does not have an editorial point of view… and as a result, people believe what they see in this space.” This might help explain why, in their own analysis of 35,000 respondents, The Drum found that consumers exposed to a brand’s OOH ads were 10 percentage points more likely to trust the brand versus those without an out-of-home presence (72% versus 62%).
  • Reach: Whether you realize it or not, OOH ads are everywhere. This is because out-of-home advertising goes well beyond billboard advertising alone (even though that medium is typically what people think of first in the context of out-of-home). From taxi toppers to bus shelters to wall scapes—and the list goes on—almost any surface these days can be transformed (aka, monetized) into an OOH ad. This helps explain why the Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA) found that 90% of “travelers” (people going from point A to point B via various modes of transport) have noticed an OOH ad in the past month—with 85% actually noticing the OOH message itself. Another 74% visited a business and made a purchase after seeing a directional OOH ad.
  • Efficiency: Even though out-of-home advertising has had a bit of a renaissance in recent years, it still continues to offer the lowest CPMs of any traditional medium. In other words, you get more bang for your buck: greater reach at a lower cost.

3 important rules for political advertisers to follow

As mentioned above, political advertising has a lot of do’s and don’t’s that must be respected at all times. Some of these rules are medium-specific as well or vary state by state. So, be sure to do your homework before pushing anything live. That being said, here’s a short list of political advertising rules and regulations that pretty much apply across the board.

1. No discounts allowed

The Federal Election Committee—the non-partisan body that governs election rules—clearly states that media vendors cannot provide discounts to politicians or groups doing advertising on behalf of candidates or ballot measures. This is because a discount is basically a donation in sheep’s clothing—and there are very specific rules about donations. Not to mention, if a vendor offered a candidate they supported a discount but did not do the same or, worse, only offered higher rates to an opposing candidate, that discount would inevitably be riddled with all sorts of bias. So, as you can imagine, this rule was put in place to even the playing field.
But nothing in the world of politics is ever cut and dry. This truism applies to political advertising as well, in that this rule can take slightly different forms based on the medium:

  • TV and Radio: Political advertisers are required to pay the lowest approved (and public) rate established for the year. So what do these media vendors do? They jack up prices across the board to cut their losses and make advertising more expensive for everyone.
  • OOH: Political advertisers are required to pay the published rate card price. Easy as that.

2. Only certain OOH ad formats can be used for partisan messaging

Before even diving into these rules—which you’ll see are somewhat complicated at best—it can be said that there’s a lot more off-limits for political advertisers on this front. Here’s a rundown:

  • Government Property: Partisan messaging is completely off-limits here. And unfortunately, this cuts into a pretty big swath of available inventory. Say goodbye to advertising in public transit, airports, bike shares, bus shelters, and quite a bit of street furniture.
  • Place-Based Ads: You know those digital screens at retail shops, medical offices, and, how could we forget, in the bathrooms of many bars and restaurants? Well, most of those are off-limits as well. Part of it is because those establishments don’t want to show any kind of bias. But mostly because it creates a negative customer experience, especially these days when politics has become more divisive than ever.
  • Billboards and Wild Postings: Finally, we have some good news—this is a space where political advertisers can play. And fortunately, there’s not a shortage of billboards around the country. It’s just a matter of pinpointing the right billboards to reach your desired audience (which AdQuick’s platform can help you with). As for wild postings, aka guerilla marketing, those can be scattered everywhere, as long as they abide by local rules. Some cities, in general, just don’t like having their walls cluttered with ads, whether it’s for political purposes or otherwise. So, be sure to check what’s within limits.

Now, there’s a big caveat to all of the above. Some media vendors may have their own stance on political advertising or, in other words, simply don’t allow it. A couple of great examples that immediately come to mind are car wraps and rideshare advertising. Many companies in this space allow political advertising, but Firefly, for example, does not allow political advertising in its rideshare ads. The same applies to many billboard vendors around the country as well. So, as much as we’d like this to be cut and dry, unfortunately, there are always exceptions to the rule.

3. Get-out-the-vote messaging is almost always allowed

Before you get too excited here, there is, yet again, a pretty big caveat that must be respected. This kind of advertising must be purchased by a 501-C3 non-profit organization, like Vote.org, and not by political candidates or PACS. Why? Because encouraging people to vote, at its very core, is simply the right thing to do and should not be partisan in any way.

Fortunately, the team at AdQuick had the opportunity to work with Vote.org to launch an OOH ad campaign in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections. The organization’s goal was to reach as many voters as possible in an effort to boost turnout in 10 battleground states. Under normal circumstances, coordinating a campaign of this magnitude would take months of planning and organizing. However, in a matter of weeks, AdQuick’s platform enabled Vote.org to find and book over 1,800 pieces of out-of-home inventory across 26 different media owners. The end result was impressive: The campaign was seen nearly 1 billion times by 33 million Americans.

Launch your upcoming political ad campaigns with AdQuick

If there are only two takeaways you got from reading this, they should be the following:

1) Political advertising is a murky territory with its web of rules and regulations (so be sure to read up on what’s allowed in your local area before committing your ad dollars); and

2) Out-of-home advertising is a perfect choice for running political ads thanks to its industry-leading cost efficiency, incredible reach, and inherent trustworthiness.

And if you’re interested in building a political ad campaign with the same degree of success as the one we described above for Vote.org, then reach out to AdQuick today to get the conversation started. Our team of out-of-home experts can help you navigate the rules and regulations of political advertising to ensure your campaigns make the greatest impact possible.

So, if you haven’t thought about running OOH ads in the past, maybe it’s time to think again. It just might be the missing link to your campaign efforts that you’ve always been looking for.

Plan your next campaign with AdQuick’s Out-of-Home Toolkit for Political Advertisers today.