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Advertising on Breaking News Doesn’t Have to Be So Stressful or Chaotic

October 2nd, 2018   ||    by Oriana Schwindt

There’s plenty you can plan for as a local broadcaster. You’ve got your syndicated programming, and your morning, noon, and evening newscasts. Your sales teams can sell slots in these blocks with relative ease, knowing what’s likely in store.

But all bets are off when it comes to advertising on breaking news.

You may feel as though the odds of having to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming with coverage of unpleasant breaking news are increasing by the day. Perhaps there’s an active shooter situation. Or perhaps a massive wildfire is sweeping through your market. Maybe it’s a hurricane bearing down.

Paradoxically, while you may see a surge in viewership while covering such events, none of these are scenarios in which an advertiser wants their message running, and many will pull their ads as soon as they’re alerted to the situation. So what do you do when you get that call?

Finding Another Slot

More generally, if a client decides they no longer want an ad running in a particular environment, that doesn’t mean they want a refund, just another slot.

We’ve seen this scenario play out a number of times in the last two years on a national level when advertisers have faced pressure from the public around their presence in a particular program.

When Samantha Bee sparked controversy for using a vulgar word to describe Ivanka Trump on her TBS show, many advertisers pulled their commercials from the program and were redistributed around the Turner portfolio, according to Variety.

The same principle goes for advertising on local news: You offer one of your other slots as a sort of makegood. However, in cases where multiple clients have requested new slots, you may end up essentially renegotiating multiple deals.

Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

But what if breaking news were part of the plan? One way to avoid a sudden flurry of calls and scrambling is to bake this possibility into your deals.

  • Work out with the client which kinds of breaking news scenarios are no-runs.
  • Agree that if one of those no-run scenarios pops up, a contingency plan will immediately be executed.

Let’s say your client is a sporting goods store who bought an ad in the 1 p.m. window. At 12:45 p.m., news breaks of an active shooter situation at the local mall, sending your station into hours of coverage.

With a previously agreed-upon action plan, the client doesn’t need to worry. You’ll immediately remove the creative from your system and reallocate it to the appropriate slot.

Of course, this kind of baked-in policy is much easier to execute on a programmatic platform, with its immediacy and transparency. The ability to see the inventory available for this makegood-like situation and immediately bid on a new slot, at the very least, would lead to a massive reduction in friction for both buyer and seller.

Even if your station isn’t ready for a more digital approach, setting a clear procedure around advertising in breaking news is something any sales team can do. That extra planning may save everyone a lot of pain.

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