With Labor Day in the rear-view mirror, the eyes of the nation skip right past October straight to the November election. While this has been built up as the most important election in our lifetime, usually referring to the presidential campaign, the label can be equally applied to every single local election. More than ever, U.S. citizens, whichever side of the aisle they are on, are politically attuned and active.
As the pandemic and social unrest has shown us, local, state and congressional roles -- and their ability to work in tandem -- is mission critical. While opinions are passionate and diverse, one thing is certain: Historically and now, this is the moment that candidates ramp up their messaging. In the New York market (NY, NJ, CT), Vice President, Political & Programming Sales for NY Interconnect (NYI) Randi Langford remains close to the candidates, their media agencies and advisors. Langford attests to the intensity of the area's political races as she and her team began preparing for this election almost immediately after the 2018 election cycle.
"You learn the nuances and you start to follow the hot congressional districts that have state senate races. You can never be over-read or learn too much," shared Langford in an exclusive MediaVillage interview. She advises that this year's hot races are the New York Congressional 11th District (Incumbent Max Rose-D vs. Nicole Malliotakis-R), NY Congressional District 1 (Incumbent Lee Zeldin-R vs. Nancy Goroff-D vs. Joshua Goldfein -Working Families Party vs. Luca Nascimbene-I), and the empty seat in NY Congressional District 2, left open by long-time representative Peter King.
For New Jersey, Langford sees the hot races being NJ Congressional District 7 where incumbent Tom Malinowski-D is running against Thomas Kean, Jr.-R, son of former NJ Governor, Tom Kean and NJ Congressional District 3, incumbent Andrew Kim-D vs David Richter-R.
The spending is commensurate with the intensity, says Langford. "In anticipation of the demand, we've gone out and created different pockets of inventory to sell to advertisers. We've created niche zones within larger zones, so there's ad inventory available to meet the demand. In the June New York primary, we didn't have live sports, so we continue to navigate the impact of the pandemic daily."
Leah Casterlin, co-Founder of Media Fortitude Partners, a political media buying agency that represents the re-election bid of NJ 7th District Representative Tom Malinowski, says that COVID-19 has most definitely impacted the timing of the budget allocation. "In a traditional election cycle, you would see a strong heavy up (of spend) in the last two weeks of the campaign. While we still expect to see strength and increased spend as we get closer to the election, the anticipated preference of many voters for mail-in voting (particularly in a state like New Jersey where every registered voter receives a mail-in ballot) has caused candidates to spend earlier to get their message across before those ballots are returned."
With greater uncertainty in the marketplace, Langford reports that NYI is focused on being agile and adaptive, offering innovative solutions. Political advertising is especially appropriate for addressable advertising within the NYI footprint because it allows for precise household level targeting. Langford's team is responding to political agencies' need to identify, with some degree of certainty, which households are more likely to be Republican, Democrat, and Independent. "We're very blessed to have a lot of robust data and analytics behind us to demonstrate the viewing patterns of voters from each party."
Langford points out one definitive change for 2020- the focus on responses to COVID-19. In her role, she sees every commercial and reviews the substantiation and back-up documents required for any claims. "COVID definitely plays a big role. Are hospitals getting enough revenue? Are we treating the teachers kindly? What about the nursing shortage? You do see that current events are going to play a big role in this."
NYI has evolved from its humble beginnings as an efficient way to buy local advertising across multiple cable operators, to an effective way to buy audiences across multiple platforms. And through decades of reaching New York market viewers, the need for this inventory in the political sphere hasn't changed.
Says Langford, "I can't think of a politician since I started this job who hasn't used cable, from Cory Booker to Andrew Cuomo to Bob Menendez."
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