What is in this article?:
- Restaurants plan marketing moves around the election
- Shifting spending
Restaurant operators such as Taco Bell adjusted marketing strategies to coordinate with the election and avoid costly advertising expenses
David Stidham, vice president of marketing for Culver’s, knew the Nov. 6 national election would make buying time on television for the chain’s commercials prohibitively expensive this fall.
Prairie du Sac, Wis.-based Culver’s has most of its 470 restaurants in the Midwestern swing states of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio, all of which factored into the presidential candidates’ strategies to win the votes of the Electoral College, inviting record levels of political advertising.
As a result, Culver’s, like many other restaurant brands, found itself muscled out of TV advertising during the campaign by election-related ads. But rather than cut back on their marketing spending, chains identified ways to shift those dollars toward productive uses and keep their brands top of mind.
“We knew we were going to get bumped [off TV] regardless, even if we overbought media, because of the budgets getting thrown around — we’re in battleground states,” Stidham said. “We cut fall TV short. But we wanted to make sure we were still out there talking to people, so we reallocated.”
Running from the races
Culver’s was not alone in waiting for the Nov. 6 election to pass before returning to TV. In the days following the election, Carl’s Jr. ran a new commercial for its biscuits, and Taco Bell rolled out a new dessert lineup and an upgraded steak nachos dish. Pizza Patrón kicked off a new promotional campaign with soccer star Lionel Messi, as well.
Jeff Fromm, executive vice president for Kansas City, Mo.- based ad agency Barkley, speculated that those brands did not want their messaging to compete with the constant negativeads generated by the elections.
“Nobody wants to advertise in the days before the election when they’re competing with one obnoxious ad after another,” Fromm said. “Honestly, there’s such a drain on ad inventory that it’s not surprising [restaurants pulled back from broadcast ads].”
This year’s campaign achieved record levels of spending for political TV ads from candidates and outside groups. The Center for Responsive Politics estimated the week before Election Day the 2012 races for the White House, Congress, and state and local offices would generate more than $6 billion in ad spending.
According to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, preliminary estimates for the presidential race alone showed that President Barack Obama’s and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaigns, along with their parties’ national committees, super PACs and other outside groups, spent more than $950 million on TV ads alone.
Kantar also noted that the Obama campaign not only spent hundreds of millions of dollars on TV and radio commercials, but it also began buying up ad inventory early in the general-election cycle. As early as April, the campaign began running ads that focused on Romney’s time with Bain Capital or his opposition to the auto industry bailout before the challenger’s campaign could define his image. Romney’s campaign significantly increased its TV buying in late August after both parties held their national conventions.