Over the next year and half, as election season kicks off in the United States, there will be in new and big ad buyer in town – political campaigns on both the local and national level. It is estimated that more than $16 billion will be spent on advertising between now and Election Day, across more than 30,000 local, state and national political contests.

These campaigns are unlike any CPG, Automotive, Entertainment, Travel or Service campaign that the digital ad world is used to creating. Candidates and causes have short planning cycles and often run ads on an action/reaction basis. There are also rules that have been set for this landscape – all money must be spent in their effort to win the vote.  

At Videonomics’ ADAPT Political Advertising Workshop in Washington DC earlier this month, we got the inside scoop on how digital will play a role in this upcoming election.

Political Spend Moves to Digital

The Obama 2012 campaign led the shift by outspending the Romney campaign in digital media 4:1; digital continues to gain ground. Seeing more than a 2,563% growth in spend since 2013, according to a panel from Borrell Associates Inc., it will be the fastest growing sector in political ad budget spend by 2017, when $480 million will allocated to digital.

It is true that television will still maintain a strong 64% of the budget share, but according to John Durham, CEO of Catalyst SF, there will be many obstacles in 2016. In his panel, he discussed how the Rio Olympics will cause a significant drain on television inventory. Additionally, the closing windows for TV placements happen in March and as fundraising continues throughout the rest of the race, those dollars will be allocated to digital.

Programmatic Gains Traction

The states were electoral votes are up for grabs—Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Virginia, Iowa, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Vermont – traditionally have the highest ad spend. It is in these battleground states where Programmatic Video is gaining major market share.

Political campaigns demand flexibility and responsiveness when it comes to real-time bidding, targeting and creative that is highly reactive to the issues and voters.  Digital Programmatic provides campaigners and issue advocates critical access to important, younger and time-shifting demographics. Borrell predicts that most – if not all – of the digital ad volume that is forecasted through 2017 and beyond will be automatically sold and purchased through real-time transactions.

By the 2020 Election, 26% ad budget will be allocated for digital. The lesson learned at the ADAPT event was best put by Borrell, “A new day in political advertising has begun.”

We couldn’t agree more.