Midterm Elections Impact on DRTV and Mail

For the 2014 mid-term elections, the Democrat and Republican parties are anticipating a cutthroat election season, which will mean heavy spends leading into fourth quarter for political advertising on television and in the mail. For 2014 there are 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 36 seats to be decided in the Senate, in addition to gubernatorial races in 36 of the 50 states. There is also additional ad spending by the U.S. government to support the Affordable Care Act.

Midterm electionsTotal political ad spending for the 2014 election season is predicted to surpass $4 billion and could go as high as the $4.5 billion record set in the 2012 presidential election year. The last midterm election in 2010 had a reported spend of $3.6 billion.  As in years past, a significant portion of the media spend with be on local market broadcast TV and direct mail.

There are twelve highly disputed state races (predicted state spends in excess of $75 million on TV alone) that have the potential of impacting our avails and increasing competition for the mailbox, they are in the following states:

  • Louisiana
  • North Carolina
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • West Virginia
  • Kentucky
  • Iowa
  • Colorado
  • New Hampshire

Historically Russ Reid has not seen a negative impact on results during an election or mid-term election year for TV or mail.


In the 2012 elections, Russ Reid’s DRTV clients experienced a tight marketplace for long form avails from the end of September until mid-December. Many advertisers who could not afford to buy time during the election window (September-October) over spent in November and December to make up for their lack of presence. This drove up the cost and limited inventory until the end of the calendar year. For short form DRTV Russ Reid utilizes almost exclusively national cable and there are only a small percentage of budgets being allocated by political advertisers in that channel on a national level so impact should be negligible.    The impact of the elections on buying time will not be apparent until close to year’s end which makes it difficult to predict how efficiently budgets can be spent and at what levels. This left significant amounts of DRTV budgets unspent for the year in 2012.

Direct mail

For direct mail there will be an increase in clutter in the mailbox that can impact drop dates. In past elections Russ Reid’s clients have seen strong direct mail results. This can be partially attributed to a few factors:

  • Fatigue by consumers (donors) with political messages
  • Less competition from non-profits in the mailbox
  • Political advertisers tend to use over-sized mail packages compared to the standard #10

Recommendation It will be difficult to gauge the actual impact of the elections on spending DRTV budgets efficiently and fully until mid-November at the earliest. For DRTV it might make it impossible to spend the allocated budgets by years end. There is no expected negative impact on the direct mail results. There are a few tactics that can be used to help offset these concerns:

  • Adjusting the in-home dates when available to avoid the heavy political mail times (varies by market)
  • TV Buyers to buy avails and packages further in advance (already happening) than normal
  • Heavy up TV spends August through October (move budget from 4th quarter)
  • Push more spend into cable (where efficient)
  • Explore markets in states that do not have heavy DRTV spends
  • Put additional incentive programs in place at the call center to try to improve conversion rates to allow for a higher cost to acquire donors
  • Closely monitor and adjust spends

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