Digital Marketing
8 min

Election Year Insights: Using Agile Marketing to Stay Ahead

Grayson Gilcrease Grayson Gilcrease Senior Content Writer

Election years are a high-stress time for marketers and consumers alike. With less ad inventory available, higher ad format prices, shorter attention spans, and brand safety risks, it’s harder than ever to capture consumer attention and keep your brand safe while doing it. 

And those issues are widespread: we predict that all advertisers will be impacted by the increased political spending, regardless of industry or target audience.

Your brand needs to be ready for what’s coming this fall, and that means making sure your marketing strategy is agile so you can adapt to a volatile election-year landscape.

REEF and Wpromote’s marketing experts have joined forces to discuss how you can inject flexibility into your marketing approach and leverage new tools to seize the agile advantage this election season.

Quick pivots: adapting messaging in real-time

To build an adaptable strategy, it’s crucial to set up alerts within your measurement framework so you can track your KPIs, catch anomalies as they happen, and pivot when necessary. 

You can then leverage any data insights in real-time to adapt your messaging and creative based on current trends or your audience’s interests. But updating creative quickly can be a challenge for many teams; multiple stakeholders and convoluted approval processes often slow down the production of assets and keep brands from staying up to date. 

That’s why you need to have a plan in advance for how you’ll adjust to changes. Start by having a conversation with your team about potential pivots so you can figure out what your organization’s position is and what active conversations you’re willing to participate in versus those you’d like to avoid commenting on. If everyone is on the same page, your team can be more confident when making new creative quickly.

“Make sure in creative review processes you’re being even more diligent about putting your consumer hat on and scrutinizing the language you’re using.”

Elyse Schaefer | DTC Marketing Director, REEF

You should also outline a quick process so you’re ready for any changes that come up in the future. Decide how approvals can be accelerated and who needs to be looped in on any changes to streamline your process.

If possible, it’s a good idea to have multiple versions of your creative and messaging (especially on social and search) ready to be approved ahead of time so you can move even more quickly. 

Unlock flexibility: planning for budget shifts

A flexible budget is critical during any election; costs can change at a moment’s notice and new trends can mean you need to shift spend to different channels unexpectedly. The last thing you want is to have your decisions hindered by a budget that falls short.  

“Make sure, as a brand, you’re prepared to be flexible. That way you can diversify your investment and determine whether you should adjust your investment flighting across the year.”

Liz Cooney | Group Director of Media Strategy, Wpromote

To get that flexibility, you usually have to start by making the case to finance. That can be easier said than done, but it’s worth fighting for the money your team needs to keep up with the election ahead of time. Prioritize getting a dedicated testing budget of at least 10% and put that money in the hands of a dedicated owner so someone is always held accountable for protecting and using that budget. 

But remember, if you’re going to set aside budget for testing, you need to make sure you know the rest of your budget is doing the work to get the results you need so you don’t have to cut a test short. 

Venn diagram of how you can inject agility into your strategy

You also need to be as clear as possible about the business outcomes you’re trying to drive so everything is aligned with those goals. By setting clear priorities in advance you can make sure you have a strategy that’s set up to meet those objectives in the future. 

Flexibility in budget doesn’t just mean the amount of money you’re spending; it’s also about where you’re spending it. Ask yourself: “How are we setting up fluidity with partners so we can shift money quickly?” Your original plan can be a starting point you and your team agree on, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. You need to be ready to make changes whenever necessary.

Mitigate risk: maintaining brand safety during an election

One of the most important considerations for any marketer during an election is brand safety. With so much political debate and important news being covered across social media platforms, news networks, and more, it’s easy for brands to run into trouble by appearing alongside some less-than-positive news. 

For example, when news broke that Russia had invaded Ukraine on CNN, there was a picture in screen ad for Applebee’s as the invasion was being shown. Regardless of how viewers felt about Applebee’s before, seeing the ad alongside such an intense news story wasn’t good for the brand. 

Example of why you need agility in your marketing. Applebee's ad next to invasion of ukraine.

Source: CNN

That’s why it’s essential to have a plan to protect your brand safety. First, you need to decide what level of risk your brand is willing to take on–are you okay with appearing next to political posts on certain topics but not others? Or would you prefer to avoid any potential controversies by avoiding current events altogether? Put yourself in customers’ shoes when making these decisions. You need to focus on what your current audience wants to hear from you as a brand, rather than your brand’s priorities. 

Once you know what to watch out for, you need to set up checks to flag when your ads appear next to problematic content. Brand safety partners like IAS or DoubleVerify can track this for your brand at scale. While you can never take risk out of the equation entirely, you can make it much lower with the right planning. 

But the heightened environment around the election isn’t all bad. There are more engaged users online around highly-discussed events like the election, and savvy brands can leverage this opportunity to reach them. Marketers can take advantage of this time by featuring content that gives audiences a much-needed time out from political content. Try posting something funny or comforting to give your customers a bright spot in the middle of their feeds.

“There are a lot more engaged users talking as a result of the election year. Don’t forget that they’re human; everyone is in a heightened state. Find a way to put something out that has nothing to do with the election.”

Kimberlee Raymond | Senior Director of Product Marketing, Wpromote

Taking action: build more agility into your strategy

The election season can be intimidating for brands, but with the right preparation, your business can still thrive come November. 

Whatever you do, keep empathy and proactivity in mind. Your customers are only human, and you need to provide them with the experience they’re looking for from your brand during this tricky time–whether that’s getting involved with political movements or posting relaxing social media content to escape the debate. 

If you’re ready to get started with agility right now, you should try changing a few things in your strategy first:

  • Test at least one new thing: Even if it’s changing the color of a font, a test can go a long way. If you’re working with creators or influencers, start your testing by asking them to try some new things in their content first.
  • Practice scenario planning: Choose a critical moment for your business (or several) in the next few months and run through how you’ll respond. 
  • Diversify your media mix: Avoid being “stuck” on a limited number of platforms. By diversifying your media mix, you’ll open up your options so you can make adjustments to your strategy as needed. 

Looking for more tips on how to add agility into your strategy? Catch our latest on-demand webinar.

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