Jan 21, 2020

Trump effect: "Skip politics" culture rises in media, tech

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Amid a historic election year, and a heightened political climate, the media is looking for ways to cater to users who just want to tune it all out.

Why it matters: While some media companies and brands are leaning more heavily into politics, others are finding it helpful to give people a rest.

Driving the news: As impeachment hearings loom, advertisers are doing their best to avoid politics and to stay out of the political fray, the New York Times reports. In addition, advertisers are urging their agencies to place ads as far away from political candidates' spots as possible.

  • For some TV networks, this has become difficult. The Super Bowl on Fox will feature two multi-million dollar spots from presidential candidates for the first time, one each from President Trump and Michael Bloomberg.
  • NBCUniversal has reportedly been pitching the Olympics to advertisers as a politics-free zone. The International Olympic Committee earlier this year banned political statements by athletes at games.

Between the lines: Tech companies face a similar problem. Facebook said earlier this month that it would give consumers the option to stop seeing political ads in their feeds moving forward.

  • “Seeing fewer political and social issue ads is a common request we hear from people,” Facebook said in a statement.
  • TikTok said last year that it would ban political ads because they don't fit the company's goal of creating an "entertaining, genuine experience" for users.

Between the lines: In a hyper-political era, few places have become void of politics.

  • Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais urged award recipients to skip political talk during their acceptance speeches, a trend that’s grown during the Trump era.
  • Seth Meyer's new Netflix stand-up special includes a “skip politics” button that allows users to skip over the Trump jokes.
  • Developers have taken to search engines to build "deTrumpfiy" extensions to let users replace mentions of Donald Trump in their web browsers.
  • Britain’s Sky News launched a “Brexit free” channel in October for customers sick of 24/7 Brexit coverage.

What's next: Ahead of Tuesday's historic impeachment trial in the Senate, users have been tuning out wall-to-wall impeachment coverage.

  • All of the major cable networks, as well as the major broadcast networks, are expected to carry all if not at least some of the coverage live. Ratings will tell how tuned in America really is.

Go deeper

Super Bowl ads have become more about brand values than the brands themselves

Data: Axios research, Ad Age; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

More advertisers are buying pricey Super Bowl ads this year to sell you on their values, rather than their products.

Why it matters: It's a reflection of a broader trend of companies investing more in marketing efforts that expand their corporate reputations long-term, rather than their bottom lines in the short-term.

2020 won't be the year digital election ads surpass TV

Data: Advertising Analytics; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

While some of the lower-spending 2020 Democrats are investing most of their dollars in digital ads, the biggest spenders — Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer — are overwhelmingly spending more on television ads as a percentage of their budgets.

Why it matters: Their ad spend stands in stark contrast to that of the Trump campaign, which is investing much more heavily in digital advertising, especially on Facebook.

Go deeperArrowJan 28, 2020

Scoop: Inside the Trump campaign's big hedge on Facebook

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Trump campaign has invested most of its advertising budget to date on Facebook, testing thousands of versions of ads per day to maximize its spending.

But behind the scenes, a source familiar with the campaign tells Axios, the thinking has shifted: "As everyone can see, we still have strong spending on Facebook, but the percentage of our total media budget [on Facebook] is shrinking."