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Political Ad Spending Will Reach New Highs: Digital Channels Will Play a Key Role

Political ad spending is shifting towards digital channels in the 2024 election season, with a focus on programmatic and CTV advertising. Campaigns face opportunities and challenges in leveraging advanced targeting technologies for voter engagement.

Political Ad Spending Will Reach New Highs: Digital Channels Will Play a Key Role
Political Ad Spending Will Reach New Highs: Digital Channels Will Play a Key Role
4:23

The 2024 political season is underway, and over the next five months, countless national, statewide, regional and local campaigns will invest tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to sway voters and ensure they get to the polls.

Digital channels will take a sizable share of political ad spending, nearly doubling from 14.1% in 2020 to 28.1% in 2024. That’s a bigger jump that the one seen between 2016 and 2020.

Digital's share of total political ad spending will nearly double to 28.1% in 2024, up from 14.1%

What’s more, eMarketer reported today that political ad spending will be increasingly programmatic, which makes sense, given that there is no use in showing ads to voters who will never cross party lines, but plenty of upside to target voters who are on the fence, or whose turnout in November can effect races. Programmatic allows political advertisers to target users based on specific actions, such as visiting a campaign website or clicking on an ad.

Like all sectors, political advertising will follow the consumer to their preferred channels. It’s no surprise we're seeing a surge in ad spending on platforms like CTV, streaming audio, and digital channels in general. This comes as the traditional dominance of linear TV for political ads wanes.

According to eMarketer, CTV ad spend will reach $1.56 billion in 2024, and account for 12.6% of all ad spend. Eighty percent of of CTV ad spend will be programmatic.

One thing is for sure, this election season will deliver both opportunities and challenges to political ads in the digital ecosystem.

Opportunities

The biggest opportunities digital advertising offers campaigns is the ability to identify voters who are likely to support their candidates or initiatives and engage them until election day, as well as the availability of data platforms and tools that allow campaign managers to home in on the right voters.

For instance  BasisElect is an advertising platform built specifically for elections, which is why we opted to integrate its data with Colossus SSP. L2 Political Academic Voter File (aka L2 Voter Data) is another vital resource, offering a comprehensive database containing detailed information on registered voters across the United States. These tools allow campaigns to focus on specific voters and regions that can affect the election outcome

Meanwhile, new tools, such as generative AI, can enable campaigns to deliver highly targeted ads at the household level, which could potentially lead to higher voter turnout.  And some say that AI is a great tool for less-resourced campaigns to compete against well-financed ones. There are restrictions, of course. Meta and Google require disclosure for all political ads that are generated via AI, and about a dozen states have adopted some form of AI disclosure requirements.

Political campaigns have a golden opportunity in CTV advertising: household-level targeting. Unlike traditional TV, CTV leverages data from smart TVs, streaming devices, and IP addresses to deliver ads directly to relevant households. This granular targeting maximizes campaign effectiveness.

Challenges

There are numerous challenges to political ads concerning the trustworthiness of ads, especially in this era of widely available AI. Deepfakes have received a lot of attention, and for good reason.  In January 2024, registered Democratic voters in New Hampshire received fake Joe Biden robocalls telling them not to vote in the primaries so that they could save their vote for November (the perpetrator has since been arrested).

At present there isn’t enough oversight when it comes to AI-generated ads. The United States government hasn’t enacted a national AI disclosure law, and while some platforms and States require AI disclosure,

Digital channels and advanced targeting technologies take political advertising to a new level, but those tools must be used responsibly and transparently in order to gain the voter’s trust. Campaigns that balance innovation with ethical considerations will not only gain a strategic advantage but also uphold the democratic process.

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