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Advertising Your Store on TV or Radio in 2016? Good Luck!

An improving economy, a Presidential election and The Olympics. All in the same year. It’s the perfect storm. And not in a good way for the nation’s advertisers.

What does that mean for your advertising plans? Trouble. Lots of it. It means higher rates and tight inventory. It means making plans and then seeing your ads bumped for endless campaign commercials.

Who can you thank for this mess? The politicians. They passed a law that guarantees all broadcast TV and radio commercials sold to candidates must be at the station’s “lowest unit rate” during the 45-days before a primary and 60-days before a general election. Well guess what? The “lowest unit rate” will not be that low. And you’ll pay a lot more if you can even get on the air.

And if you thought it was bad in 2012, you “ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Even conservative estimates predict that spending by all candidates in the 2016 Presidential Election will surpass $5 billion, double the spending in 2012. Add in all state and local races, plus issue-based advertising and the total will be $10 billion.

Who wins? The media. Who loses? Just about anyone who relies on TV and radio advertising to drive traffic to their stores.

If you don’t have a proactive plan in place to deal with this, start now. Here are 5 things to do today to protect your sales in 2016.

#1 – Love your customers like never before. Make sure you have their email addresses. Remember their birthdays and anniversaries. I’m not a huge lover of direct mail (it has the highest cost-per-thousand of any medium), but this year I am. Use it. Plan more events like private sales and market them directly to your existing customer base – direct mail, email, social media, personal contact, etc.

#2 – Shift some of your budget from TV and radio to online. Social media advertising works and it’s cheap. Review your SEM (search engine marketing) program and make sure it’s performing. If not, get a second opinion. Buy online ads but not directly with specific sites. Smart marketers know you buy your target wherever they are on the Web using networks of sites. Make sure your website is up-to-date and that you have a mobile version (more than half of all internet searches start on a portable device).

#3 – Completely avoid the 45 and 60-day windows prior to the elections. In most states, there will be NOTHING but political advertising running during this time. In 2012, people started to deliberately tune-out. They started watching more on-demand and online programming. “Cord-cutting” is a reality. People are canceling their cable subscriptions and relying on services like Hulu and Netflix. Don’t believe me? Total household with cable fell 10% in the last year while households subscribing to Netflix jumped 35%. And what about millennials, your best bridal customers? They’re watching 23% less TV than just 5 years ago.

#4 – Leverage volume and relationships. The TV and radio stations know this party will end (for this year) on November 8. If you’ve been a regular advertiser, they’ll say they’ll try to look out for you. But, don’t kid yourself. The stations are gorging on this money and they love it. If you don’t use an ad agency or media buying firm, this may be the year. Because they represent lots of advertisers in the marketplace, the stations will be a lot more concerned about them than they will be about a single advertiser. Any good agency will know the daily inventory situation and will be able to get the most for the least.

#5 – “Trust But Verify.” If you use an agency, find out how they monitor your buys. Many agencies use systems that track commercials as they air, in real time. That way they know if your spot was bumped immediately and can ask for a make good. You don’t want to wait until the invoice arrives at month end to learn that half your spots were missed – which explains the sales slump.

Is there a silver lining in this? Yes, save as much as you can for the 2016 holiday season. Starting November 9, “own” your category in your market. Prices will still be much higher than last year because of pent up demand, but if you plan your flighting right you’ll get through this. Good luck!

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