How We Revolutionized & Modernized Media Buying: Reserves

Over the next few months, we will be sharing our strategies for how we revolutionized and modernized media buying in 2020. This first case study will help prep your team for the upcoming election cycle by sharing how you can get ahead of the competition by reserving ads inventory early.


The 2020 Election was going to be an Arms Race: record small-dollar fundraising and thus, record digital ad spend. No matter who the Democratic nominee was going to be, we had a 4-year advantage – so we had to act accordingly. September through November 3 would be the most competitive and expensive inventory, and there was no reason to wait to book it. 


We got our head start in January 2019, before most Democrats formally announced their presidential runs. We built a 2019 Google partnership unlocking incentive funds, perks, and beta access to new tools and discounts at certain spend benchmarks, across YouTube reservations and auction, Google Display, programmatic buying, and YouTube Mastheads. The Masthead is the most premium ad unit on the Internet. is the second-largest search engine in the world, after Google Search, and reaches more than 75 million Americans aged 18+ every day. That’s more reach than MSNBC and CNN… combined. The 2019 Google partnership wasn’t really meant for 2019 deals. Instead, it gave us first dibs on 2020 YouTube Masthead reservations, along with the other 2019 partnerships and biggest advertisers. Because of this, we could beat out the Democrats at the dates that mattered: Convention weeks, Debate days, the days leading up to Election Day, and of course, Election Day!


Our media planning team was instrumental in scoping out, building partnerships, securing inventory across display, pre-roll, audio, and connected TV, and maintaining reservations until Election Day. Our head of media planning hit the ground running in Fall of 2019. At that point, no votes had been cast for a Democrat candidate, and thus no other political group had the leverage or infrastructure to begin locking in inventory. We secured $250 million in reserved inventory with 40 vendors in 17 swing states before Joe Biden became the nominee. By doing this so far in advance, the market wasn’t saturated with requests, and we ultimately set the cost. 


Perhaps our biggest saving grace was reserving inventory by week and by state. While we were organizing, keeping track, and signing hundreds of insertion orders by vendor due to this structure, we were never locked into inventory that didn’t match campaign strategy. We were detailed, thorough, and never took the easy way out. This way of buying media put us, the buyers, in the driver’s seat – not our sales reps.


Have follow up questions? Feel free to reach out to me directly: [email protected]

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