The Never-​Ending Election Ad Cycle

BY Adam Ambro
Featured image for “The Never-​Ending Election Ad Cycle”

It’s August 2021 which means one thing comes to mind, it’s time to start thinking about the November 2022 elections! That’s right, the 2022 midterms, which are 15 months away, and the election ad spending associated with them, has already started to ramp up. Much like how the holiday season shopping season starts earlier and earlier each year, the political election cycle now seems never-​ending. For good reason too; it’s a cash cow for advertising. According to an AdImpact report, an estimated $9 billion in political ads will be spent during the upcoming election.

How does this compare to the 2020 election ad spending?

The last three election cycles have seen exponential growth in ad spending.

  • 2016 Cycle — $2.57 billion was spent
  • 2018 Cycle — $3.96 billion was spent
  • 2020 Cycle — $9.02 billion was spent

2020 was a culmination of high political engagement and a once-​in-​a-​generation pandemic. But with 2022 about to equal the historical amount of ad spending, the question becomes what’s driving the growth? AdImpact’s data indicated that widespread use of Facebook as an essential part of election ad spending.

In recent years, we’ve seen the widespread use of Facebook as a fundraising tool to allow campaigns to quickly and easily reach a highly polarized electorate,” writes AdImpact. “This, combined with the rise of easy online donation tools such as ActBlue and WinRed, has let candidates and issue groups fundraise with greater ease than ever before.”

Where will the election ad spend show up?

Now that we know how much will be spent over the next year and a half, where exactly will the ads be shown? Broadcast TV is still far and above the number one media type where the ad dollars will go. With over $4.6 billion projected to show up on traditional television. That’s over a 54% increase from the 2018 midterm elections. Coming in second, however, is where things begin to get interesting.

OTT is more popular than ever, and this upcoming election cycle will showcase the format’s popularity. Connected TV is now estimated to get over $1.5 billion in ad spend.

With more cash on hand, candidates have the flexibility to spend earlier compared to past cycles, utilize expanded platforms, and generally deploy these cash reserves with greater breadth and precision,” writes AdIMpact.

Who to sell to?

After a presidential election that saw a new administration chose, the focus of the losing party and its supporters will shift to what they can change in the midterms. Historically, the losing party of a presidential election almost always makes gains in the midterm elections, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s one reason why AdImpact is expecting such a sustained increase in ad spending this election cycle as the Republicans will target the narrow political leads held by Democrats in both the House and Senate.

  • $4 billion will be spent on House and Senate Races
  • $2.3 billion will be spent on elections for governor in 38 states
  • $2.5 billion is expected to be spent on down-​ballot races

So, we know the amount that’s going to be spent this cycle is historic. We know that Broadcast TV will continue to play a pivotal role in the advertising and that OTT/​Connected TV is surging in popularity. How do you use this information to sell to your clients and know who to target? Luckily for you, that’s where AdMall, powered by SalesFuel, will assist.

AdMall has AudienceSCAN reports for multiple types of voters, their political affiliation, what kinds of political channels they watch, how much they’re watching those channels and much more. These insights will help you present a better case to your advertiser about where and when to place an ad. The political campaign trail is much like the advertising campaign trail: It’s never too early to start.