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How Can a Smaller Advertiser Survive the Election-Ad Tsunami?

Use Digital and Interactive to Create Campaigns That Pack Political Spirit

By Brad Carraway

As election day draws near, the tsunami of political ads will be upon us. What does this mean for advertisers, especially small businesses? It means inventory will become much tighter, as the political ads barge in.

According to MediaPost, political advertisements elbow their way into locally oriented media as much as national media, if not more so. During the 2008 election, "roughly 85% of measured media advertising placed for the November general election was in local TV, where political ads take precedence over those from regular marketers."

This year, with the increased influence of Super PACs, smaller brands and locally based advertisers are expected to be pushed out even more. Kantar Media CMAG projects that total political-ad spending this election year will be up more than 30 percent from the last election cycle.

So what is a small business or brand looking to advertise supposed to do as the airwaves, cable outlets, billboards and internet spots fill up with political rhetoric? Get Creative. Get Active. Capitalize on this election to stand out!

Here are three thought starters and examples of creative alternatives to traditional media marketing that you can do right now, to break through the political clutter, market your brand and connect with your target audience in meaningful ways.

Content Marketing. Small brands and businesses have the opportunity to create original content that engages their target audience in a branded environment as never before. With content marketing, businesses can establish themselves as a go-to resource within their category, while stimulating user interaction and viral sharing. The political season provides a perfect backdrop for creating election-themed content marketing, either through developing original branded content, or by rallying your consumers to develop content that can be shared on your (and their) platforms.

Experiential. Just like politicians shaking hands and kissing babies, brands of all sizes can get out to the people and create impactful one-on-one connections that showcase their products. New Belgium Brewing has enjoyed success staging carnivals, complete with costumed bike parades, family-oriented bike activities, live entertainment and, of course, a beer garden featuring New Belgium's latest creations. Taking a spin on this concept, local brands or businesses could capitalize on the shared interest, and crowd-drawing power of the election to host election-themed experiential events in which consumers get to somehow vote on the products.

SoLoMo. With the rise of smartphones and tablets that integrate geo-location and geo-fencing technology, brands have the ability to create a unique and highly personalized shopping experience, often by utilizing mobile apps and social-media platforms. H&M recently executed an exemplary SoLoMo campaign, where they placed David Beckham statues in strategic areas around the U.S., and consumers who snapped a photo of one of the statues with hashtag #HMBeckham were entered to win a $1,000 H&M giftcard, among other prizes. Businesses can get creative during the election season by running their version of a SoLoMo initiative that invites customers to photograph their "election experience" using their smartphone, and upload images to Twitter or Instagram with a specific hashtag. In turn, participants would be entered into a sweepstakes, or qualify to receive a specific offer. Brands can take this a step further by posting the photos in-store, on their website or social-media pages, to create a sense of community within their customer base and increase the virality of the campaign.

This fall, there's no need for a small business or emerging brand to be overrun by the political media storm. Instead, let's use this as an opportunity to refocus on building our brand, and connecting with our audiences in innovative and meaningful ways -- all in the spirit of the election season.