The Election/Holiday Double Whammy + the Playbook to Beat It

June 23, 2020

As we enter Q3/2020, marketing leaders are navigating truly unmarked trails. Sharpen up your machetes because the vines are thick!

Under normal conditions, Q3 is typically a gear-up time to end the year strong. This year, we’re all locked down without the benefit of collaborating in media planning scrums, and looming out in the short distance ahead on our trail are the November elections (perhaps otherwise known in this metaphor as the “Cliffs of Insanity” for you Princess Bride fans). That’s one whammy. The other whammy, of course, is the 2020 holiday season which, you can imagine, is going to be total mayhem as brands attempt to earn whatever consumer dollar is available for this tumultuous year.

That double whammy comes at an imperfect time for most brands who themselves are trying to post good numbers, and while broadcast TV and other traditional channels continue to maintain their pole position on media priorities for the elections, digital is poised to get hit hard with an influx of new dollars. In fact, I believe media plans for the campaigns and ecommerce brands are going to remain extraordinarily fluid this year. Not surprisingly, Facebook and Google will receive the lion’s share of digital media dollars, thereby driving up prices across those platforms. However, to reach younger voters and buyers, I expect TikTok and Snapchat will experience significant increases in media allotments.

So what’s the hedge? This brings us back to Q3. Right now, at this moment, the media torrent is still off in the distance and media prices still remain largely depressed across its spectrum. For marketers who typically obsess over their financial KPIs with regard to their media investments, Q3 will be when they strike, taking advantage of lower CPMs, gathering first-party data for future remarketing when prices increase in October – December, and essentially letting the campaigns and larger brands with deeper pockets duke it out in Q4.

Here’s the playbook for the remainder of the year:

  1. Q3 is financially highly strategic. It’s the calm before the storm. The next 10 weeks are critical to invest while prices are significantly lower than normal. Your dollar will simply go further. This is the time to invest in brand awareness media channels while the gettin’s good.
  2. Amass first-party data. Your media strategy for Q3 may be conversion, but do not overlook gathering as much pixel data and email addresses as possible on these targeted consumers. In fact, if you really want to be obsessed over late-in-year conversion, prioritizing email capture is a prized goal for Q3 campaigns. These data will become significant solid footing for later in the year when prices are high.
  3. Commit to remarketing and direct-response in Q4. If you plan properly in Q3, you will have succeeded in attracting and maintaining new audiences from which to market lower-funnel content and creative in a highly targeted fashion during the remainder of the year. You will not be playing within the media vacuum created by the big brands for holiday or the billions of election dollars flooding the market. Rather, you will have outsmarted the market, both performance-wise and financially.
  4. Rinse and repeat. This should simply become the way you plan moving forward, not just in 2020. Our reps at Facebook and The Trade Desk have been telling us for years to use Q3 as the investment quarter because of ridiculous price inflation in Q4. For those clients who have been willing and able to invest earlier, the gains are clear. 2020 just blows in general, so why not make it the year to blaze that trail, learn, and repeat for 2021?

By the way, I can’t believe it’s already almost July. How long have we been doing this? Feels like years. But this upcoming quarter is, from a simple math standpoint, a make or break one for many brands. Being smart about it will ensure momentum going into 2021 budget planning. Being susceptible to the onslaught by the campaigns and ecomm/retail brands in Q4 may be too late.

Finally, it’s never too late to read the research my team has put together surrounding the entertainment, retail, and financial services markets. There are consumer insights in each of these that are apropos to any brand marketer!

Rarely do I ask directly, but if anything we’ve been sharing with you strikes your fancy and you’ve said to yourself, “Hey, this agency is different. This agency could really help me,” then please do reach out to me directly at or your Ciceron account lead. We’re all making a run at 2020 in the best way we can. We’d love to work with you.