Turn on your TV for more than a few minutes this fall–or during any election cycle–and you're bound to be bombarded with political advertisements.
As annoying as these ads are for viewers, the aggravation is through the roof for home improvement companies that have spent money on TV spots only to have them “bumped” by political campaign ads. While television account executives will often offer “make good” spots as a form of reimbursement for bumped ads, in my experience, these spots are rarely adequate replacements.
As a former marketing director who oversaw TV ad campaigns for a replacement window and door contractor, I always noticed a reduction in lead flow attributed to TV four to six weeks prior to any given Election Day. In fact, we often had a dip in overall lead volume during these periods.
This begs the question: Do election cycles affect home improvement lead sources other than TV advertising?
Social Media Advertising Takes the Biggest Hit
Facebook and Instagram are hampered more than other types of digital advertising during election cycles, according to Gregg Hicks, vice president of Modernize Home Services, a company that connects homeowners with home improvement pros.
“As the number of advertisers targeting the same audience grows, they all compete for those same impressions,” Hicks says. “This can be in the political advertiser’s favor because they’ve got money to spend and a finite amount of time in which to spend it. If they get engagement with their ads on social media, that will start to bring their ads to the top of the auction.”
Because political campaigns are making aggressive bids and because the ads are relevant to audiences during the brief election season, it’s especially difficult for contractors to compete in the social media space as Election Day nears. You should expect to see a lower number of impressions about a month prior to Election Day, with a return to normal levels shortly thereafter.
The Effect of Political Ads on Your Search Engine Marketing
While political ads create pressure on digital campaigns, Hicks says their effect on SEO and SEM isn’t as great as on social marketing. “For SEM, or paid search, we’re less affected by the election cycle because we’re competing for keywords, not for people,” he says. “For SEM, we’re targeting trade-specific keywords.”
Despite the lesser impact on SEM, search volume does drop for industry keywords one to two weeks prior to Election Day and it drops significantly on Election Day itself. This is because homeowners are more focused on the impending election than they are on home improvement projects during this window of time. And if there’s a controversy surrounding election results, the search volume slump can extend until the results are finalized.
You can still be profitable, but you have to accept it might be at a lower volume, Hicks says.
Holidays and Health Insurance Open Enrollment Complicate Matters
There are a couple of other factors in the fourth quarter that, when combined with elections, exacerbate the issues for contractors invested in digital advertising.
On the social media side of things, holidays and health insurance open-enrollment periods contribute to many of the same problems as elections. There are big businesses with a lot of money to spend trying to attract your same audience to enroll in health insurance plans and to make holiday gift purchases. That’s stiff competition.
Open enrollment doesn’t impact search engine marketing as much, but the holidays do provide a challenge for SEM because homeowners are again distracted and have their minds on things other than home improvements. People will not be searching for remodeling industry keywords at a regular rate again until after New Year’s, although there are small windows of opportunity before Thanksgiving and between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
How Should Contractors Handle Digital Marketing During the Fourth Quarter?
With elections, major holidays, and open enrollment, fourth-quarter digital advertising planning can be difficult. So, how should home improvement companies proceed? “You should understand that the volume will be lower and recalibrate your expectations so you don’t chase that smaller audience with marketing dollars in a way that’s super inefficient,” Hicks cautions.
He suggests that necessity trades such as HVAC or roofing companies should proceed as normal because when a homeowner needs an immediate fix they will be searching for a trade to address the problem at any time of the year. Meanwhile, companies providing “nice-to-have” projects such as kitchen or bathroom remodels could consider pulling back a bit on their digital marketing efforts during the final quarter, but not going into a full retreat.
“You can still be profitable, but you have to accept it might be at a lower volume,” Hicks says.