PSAs and Elections: While the Sun Shines

As we approach Election Day, I question why there are so many political ads despite people’s constant complaints about them. But, it’s really quite elementary:

  • Political ads are a cash cow for TV and Radio Stations. Stations are in business to make money and they are making hay while the sun shines: an estimated $1 billion will be spent on political ads this mid-term election cycle, according to Wesleyan Media Project; and
  • Political ads actually work!  Studies have shown that the candidate who spends more on their ad campaign wins.  According to a 2012 study conducted by the nonprofit United Republic, the candidate with more money won the race 91% of the time.

As political ads start to flood our airways, we can’t turn on the TV or radio without seeing or hearing one. In fact, during the 2012 campaign, TV viewers had to endure more than 3 million political ads (source:  

This ensuing ad traffic jam will last until Election Day, which begs the question: is there any room left for the airing of TV and Radio PSAs? Yes, there is!  While there is no denying that political ads will have some impact on the number of PSA airings, we have found that there is still a good amount of ad space left for the airings of PSAs. Political ad buying has become more targeted with less blanket media buys. This shift in ad buying opens up blocks of ad time for PSA airings.

In addition, demand will always exist for PSAs from PSA Directors.  Yes, even during an election cycle. And, once a PSA gets into a station’s rotation, it tends to stay in rotation and the number of PSA airings will simply just ebb and flow around an Election Day. The rules regarding a PSA’s demand/airings, even in an election year, remain basic.

And, I actually see a real benefit to PSAs airing during an election cycle.  Juxtaposed against a negative, sensationalized and unappealing political ad, a PSA only becomes more appealing and trustworthy. Viewers/listeners could be more inclined to head to a non-profit’s website to learn more about an organization and maybe even make a donation!

Non-profit organizations can take advantage of people’s dislike of political ads and seize this opportunity - they too can make hay while the sun shines.