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Down to the Wire: Political Advertising in 2020

Every four years presidential politics and election coverage grabs national attention. Voters in 2020 are feeling like the stakes are higher that ever before and that is in no large part because how political campaigns and parties have used media and advertising to get their message to voters. Following the Presidential and Vice Presidential Debate, we take a look at some of the biggest factors affecting paid media heading into the final weeks before Election Day. 

Record Fundraising and Ad Spending 

For much of the year President Trump has held a fundraising advantage (running largely unopposed in the Republican primary) while Vice President Biden had to get through a chaotic primary which divided democratic dollars across a pool of candidates. Since the political conventions, however, the tables have turned with Democratic donors coming home to Biden, providing a wave of financial support. While Trump is ahead with $1.33 Billion raised overall, Biden has tightened the gap with $990 Million raised overall based off of August fundraising numbers, outraising the president for the month $291 million to $129 million. This has continued in September as a wave of money continues to go to Biden who has a cash on hand advantage following the opening on the Supreme Court and 1st Presidential Debate. 

This has also been true at the local level as we have seen dollars from across the country flood downballot campaigns. Between the top ten most expensive Senate and House campaigns over $600 million dollars has been raised

Political buttons
Messages may not change too much, but campaign advertising continues to evolve at a rapid pace.

What does this mean for advertisers? Campaigns are flushed with cash to spend on advertising and plan to do so. For the entire cycle, some analysts predict over $10 billion in total ad spend, with $3.2 billion on TV alone which is up 20% from record setting midterm elections. News stations are seeing strong ratings as people tune into the latest updates on the campaigns, but that also means for industries that rely on local advertising, inventory can be tighter and harder to access as campaigns and political action committees (PAC) buy up air time in key swing states and regions. While this happens every four years, the volume of money available along with other advertisers either staying flat or declining ad spend because of COVID-effected programming delays has made it a remarkable campaign season for ad spending.  

Digital Adding Self-Imposed Regulations 

Much has changed in political advertising thanks to the advent of digital networks, which is expected to have the highest growth in ad spend. This is in large part because limitations on traditional get out the vote tactics like rallies and door knocking are making campaigns lean more heavily on digital tactics to energize their base and persuade potential undecided voters. 

facebook on mobile device

Digital networks have become a critical part of how campaigns are able to message to constituents, but critics have long complained that there is a lack of transparency and opportunity for abuse. There have been several congressional hearings where the leaders of networks like Google and Facebook have been grilled by lawmakers about the ability for false information to easily spread.  

In response to this criticism from lawmakers and users, there have been some ad policy changes for this election. Facebook initially was instituting a ban on new political ads a week prior to the election in order to give campaigns the opportunity to respond opponent messaging, but they have expanded that ban to indefinite following election night for all political advertising.  

“[W]hile ads are an important way to express voice, we plan to temporarily stop running all social issue, electoral, or political ads in the U.S. after the polls close on November 3, to reduce opportunities for confusion or abuse,” Guy Rosen, the company’s vice president of integrity, said in a blog post. “We will notify advertisers when this policy is lifted.”  

Google has also announced a similar ban on political ads following the election with concerns that results may not be known on election night and wanting to avoid bad actors from spreading false information. This will be a different experience for campaigns as they are used to having carte blanche on the type of messaging they can utilize on digital platforms. 

If you are interested in advertising, contact us to get started on creating your next campaign.