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Not too soon to find business stories in the 2014 mid-term elections

With Election Day 2013 now heading for the history books, attention toward Election Day 2014, already fairly keen, will really rev up.

Political outcomes next year, including the balance of power in Congress, will of course shape economic and regulatory matters affecting businesses, consumers and jobs.

But the campaign and election processes themselves, ahead of ballot-casting, are industries unto themselves.  And with this much time for advance planning and sourcing, you could plot an array of stories exploring “who benefits?” from lobbyists to copywriters to printers.

Politico mid-term 2014 political ads

Politico's 2014 mid-term elections page is full of ad analysis already.

Roll Call says to “Expect campaign advertisements earlier than ever,”and predicts ads will start airing in the summer — meaning the people who make them are gearing up now.

Also,  TV NewsCheck predicts that mid-term election political ads, along with Obamacare advertising spending, will boost spot advertising by 11 percent next year.  Note that the story quotes Kantar Media as informally forecasting $3 billion in political advertising spending — a monumental pie that, as the TV NewsCheck report points out, will be more widely distributed across the U.S. than in 2012, when most spending focused on battleground states.

And before they air, political ads make jobs and money for the companies that produce them; here’s a 2012 report from The Economist, “Of Mud and Money,” that is a good primer on political ad spending (note the infographic that breaks down spending among various channels) and includes a number of story nuggets you can pursue, such as the local pricing of TV airtime and how it’s affected by elections, to the sophisticated demographics-based marketeering that “microtargets” messages.  Data mining firms also are winners in the even-numbered years.

You can find specialty advertising agencies — and through them the digital production companies, writers, image-makers and other productions specialists that might make for good election-year small business profiles — by asking last year’s campaigns which agencies they employed or by going through trade groups like the American Association of Advertising Agencies.  Your colleagues who cover the statehouse can refer you to political consultants who likely are familiar with advertising, marketing, data-mining and polling gurus, too.

Keep in mind that there might be a “Who loses?” element as well; this 2012 post by the advertising association notes that election years can be touchy for non-political clients, who may be squeezed out, priced out, overshadowed or otherwise adversely affected by the dominance of political ads as the campaigns heat up.  That’s an interesting and contrarian angle you might want to keep in mind if you cover consumer goods companies, area auto dealerships, and so on.

Beyond advertising, campaigns and political action committees, activists and advocates spend on humdrum items from the printing of direct-mail pieces and signs to giveaways such as pencils and buttons to catering, website design, office space, transportation and more.  By starting now, you can familiarize yourself with vendors and be set up to report on developments as the year progresses.  (And on which campaigns aren’t paying their bills, among other things.)

Procurement by state, local and federal election officials is another area you might want to start watching.   Check with your state’s election commissioner about any open or recently completed Requests for Proposal, which could be for anything from storage space to software systems; they could be leads to interesting contracts or vendors.

 

 

About the Author

Veteran financial writer Melissa Preddy served as a business writer, editor and columnist for The Detroit News from 1995 to 2008, is a Michigan-based freelance journalist. She now works as a writer and editor for a medical research unit of the University of Michigan Medical School. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Melissa Preddy

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