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How Midterm Elections Will Affect Your Nonprofit Ad Campaigns—And How To Prepare

Summer is now officially behind us, and while for many that means breaking out the sweaters, apple picking, and pumpkin spice lattes, it also means midterm elections are upon us.  For advertisers, this is expected to have quite an impact on media plans.  

Political ad spending during this year’s midterms is expected to surpass $9 billion—the most ever spent in a midterm election year (source: AdImpact).  Consequently, nonprofits will see increased costs, a cluttered marketplace, and, depending on the nature of your organization, potential restrictions on where you can advertise.  


How to Prepare for Midterm Elections Impact on Your Ad Campaigns

Consider Geography: 

If your target audience is fairly broad and on a national scale, the midterms may not have a big impact on your campaign.  Costs will likely be higher than if it was a non-election year, but overall you shouldn’t expect your campaign to be wildly impacted.  However, if you are planning for a localized campaign in a key state like Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, or California —where a combined $3.2B in political spend is expected to be spent in these five states alone—you may want to consider holding your ad dollars until after the elections.  


Consider Timing:

If being in market in the next 6-8 weeks is crucial for your nonprofit, hopefully, you don’t also need to geotarget any of the above states. If those are key target regions for your organization, you’ll need to be prepared to pay the price or consider pausing your advertising efforts between late September and November 8th.  If you are a nonprofit with end of year fundraising goals, this leaves you plenty of time to get back into market and ramp up prior to Giving Tuesday.  At that point, all political ad spending will have ceased (though you’ll likely have holiday ecommerce to compete with!).


Consider Channels:

Due to their vast scale and advanced targeting capabilities, the first place most nonprofits turn to tends to be social media platforms.  But as we’ve seen in prior elections, many social platforms will limit, if not restrict entirely, political advertising.  If this affects your organization, investing in paid search and programmatic advertising could be the way to go.  These are high-visibility channels that will have less restrictions when it comes to advertising social issues.  


Consider Ad Formats: 

Video is expected to be the preferred format for political messaging, so if connected TV and the battleground states are a priority for your nonprofit, you may want to hold off as the competition increases. With this medium having exploded during the pandemic, CTV spend by political advertisers is projected to hit $1.5B in 2022.  Costs for desktop and mobile video will increase as well but to a lesser degree.  


Consider Targeting:

As it’s inevitable you’ll be paying increased CPMs if advertising in the weeks leading up to midterms, it’s more important than ever to limit wasteful impressions.  Therefore, if possible, focus on your first party audience data.  This will ensure your ads reach your precise target audience.  Relying on relevant third party audiences can also be effective— especially if you can identify segments that will allow you to target users based on relevant behaviors such as their prior donation activity or voting preferences.  


In the end, it’s really a matter of weighing the pros and cons for your organization.  Advertising costs in the weeks before the midterm elections will inevitably increase, and the marketplace will become especially cluttered. But keeping the above factors in mind can help you navigate the landscape and determine when and how to invest most wisely.  



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