May 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Money still pouring into election ads

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Political advertising around the 2020 election is expected to reach $6.7 billion this cycle, up 12% from initial projections of around $6 million, according to a new report. Nearly $2 billion will be spent on digital video, primarily on Facebook and Google.

Why it matters: The pandemic has forced campaigns to shift budgets from in-person campaign events, like canvassing and town halls, to digital advertising and virtual events. This has expedited a growing shift from traditional campaign marketing to digital.

Details: Like every presidential election in modern history, broadcast television advertising will be the most prominent form of marketing at $3.5 billion, followed by digital ($1.8 billion), cable ($1.2 billion) and radio ($0.2 billion), per the report from Advertising Analytics and Cross Screen Media.

  • But digital has closed that gap this year substantially compared to previous cycles. Digital video advertising at $1.8 billion represents more than double what was spent during the 2018 cycle — $74 billion.

By the numbers: Excluding Michael Bloomberg's enormous ad spend, $1.5 billion has been spent so far on the primary, nearly 2x that of any other cycle.

  • That's more than $1 billion over what was spent at this point in 2016 and 2018.
  • So far, two-thirds of all ad dollars have been spent on "direct response" ads online (ads that try to get you to donate or sign up to volunteer for something via a click).
  • Investment in "persuasion" ads, which are typically longer, emotionally appealing video ads seen on television, will increase later in the cycle.

Be smart: A huge spike in online fundraising, from both Democrats and Republicans, can also be credited with an increase in advertising this cycle.

What's next: While a cumulative $2.19 billion has been spent during the 2020 cycle, $4 billion more still needs to be spent.

  • More of the cycle's total cash is expected to be spent in the final 10 weeks leading up to the race on persuasion TV ads. So far, $443 million in advertising has already been reserved for fall 2020.
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