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Okay. Don’t panic. We need to talk about election planning. 

We won’t say it’s too late to prep your ads programs for election and end-of-year season, but… it’s not NOT almost too late. 

Now — take a breath. We’ve got you! Let’s make a plan.

We all know the media environment is going to be a chaotic hellscape saturated. Which is all the more reason to start now to ensure your ads program isn’t getting lost in the shuffle come September. Here’s what we recommend:

Anticipate higher costs

Ad spend for the 2024 election cycle is projected to surpass 2020 outlays by a whopping 30% (source: 2024 Political Report by winmo). With an influx in ads during this time, there will be higher competition. More advertisers spending more money (especially if they are competing for similar audiences) means higher costs on ad impressions — and therefore also on everything that happens after an ad impression (which is to say, everything — clicks, donations, leads, you name it). We can anticipate higher CPMs, particularly during the 6 weeks leading up to the election on November 5.

Additionally, for placements like online video, streaming services, and Connected TV, we expect that the long-running trend of more and more folks cutting the cord will continue to make this kind of inventory much more competitive. Our partner, Viant, predicts that 67% of broadcast TV dollars will be going to digital video this year.

Lastly, keep a close eye on your geo-targeting. Presidential swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, and North Carolina will have much higher competition, especially because most of those will also feature highly competitive Senate races. 

The fight for the House of Representatives is also very geographically concentrated: Eastern Pennsylvania; Mid Michigan; northern Ohio; and the New York City, Los Angeles, and Phoenix DMAs alone will contain more than half of the most competitive congressional elections this cycle, and campaigns, party committees, and outside groups are expected to maintain a heavy advertising footprint in these geographies — several of which, you may have noticed, also overlap with competitive presidential and Senate states. If certain locations aren’t a major priority for your program, it might be worth capping your spend leading up to the election to control costs.

Book your inventory as far out as possible

If you’re working with vendors that have limited inventory (i.e. podcast networks, list buy vendors, etc.) it’s smart to book these as far in advance as you can. Vendors have already reached out to us about Q3 and Q4 advertising placements getting booked out sooner than usual this year. 

Do you have that podcast you really want to be on this EOY? A homepage takeover for the last day of voter registration? Just keep in mind that you may need to reserve that soon, and keep in touch with your vendors.

Note any platform restrictions or blackout dates

The biggest restrictions we’ve come across historically are those found on the Meta platforms Facebook and Instagram, where we anticipate a similar policy to that of 2022 for ads about social issues, elections, or politics. The centerpiece of this policy is a restriction period during the final week prior to the elections.

So, how should we prepare for this? 

  • Launch your ads well before the restriction period, even if it means getting a few test impressions before they are supposed to go live (for instance, make sure that any special ads scheduled for Election Day are able to serve a small amount of impressions ahead of time).
  • Communicate this to your team (as soon as Meta releases the 2024 policy). Note that during these dates, we will not be able to create new ads or boost new posts, which may require a process update. 
  • Double, triple, and QUADRUPLE check those ads launched before this date that will be running through the blackout period because no changes can be made once the restrictions begin. 

Optimize based on the moment

After examining campaigns from past years and discussing performance with vendors, we’ve identified some specific optimizations advertisers can make to be sure we’re putting our best foot forward. These include: 

  • Leveraging unique creative to stand out among the noise. We also recommend including your CTA and key message within the first 6 seconds of your ad on social platforms. Hot tip: If you’re looking for a new creative direction to try, we’ve seen massive success with direct-to-camera-style videos and influencers videos in the past couple years!
  • Monitoring the pace of your ad spend and making sure to increase your max CPMs/CPCs/bids on ads where you may be pacing behind.
    • On DSPs especially (Viant, Yahoo, The Trade Desk), we bid on ad spots based on the max cost you’re willing to pay. During these high-competition moments, it’s important to monitor pacing closely — if you’re pacing behind, this could easily be the reason why.

Expect longer approval times from platforms

When it comes to self-service platforms (i.e., Google Ads, Meta, etc.), there will be longer review times given increased volume as the cycle progresses. This means giving your ads some extra cushion from when you implement to when you actually want them to begin serving — and that’s in addition to factoring in any restriction periods. The early bird really does get the worm with election season ads! 

Typically our ads start delivering within a day or so, but during this time it’s smart to traffic your ads at least 2-3 days prior to when you actually want them to launch.

And hey, if you’re running an electoral program, here’s some awesome research done by our friends at Supermajority on the power and attitude of young women voters going into this election.

If you’re looking for a bunch more data to back up your decisions about your ads program, be sure to give this year’s Benchmarks a read!  


Eliza Fitzgerald is a Managing Media Director at M+R based in New York, NY. When she’s not working on electoral and advocacy ads, you can find her loving on her dog Finn, trying new restaurants in the city, or reading a good book. 

Graham Rigby is an Associate Media Director based in New York who loves public transit and labor unions. He has spent time in 49 states in his endless quest to better understand this country and, more importantly, the people who constitute it.