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Political adspend hits record $9.8bn

News, 05 January 2017

NEW YORK: A record $9.8bn was spent on national, state and local election campaigns in 2016 and, while broadcast TV took the biggest share, digital advertising and cable TV saw major gains, according to new analysis of last year's election cycle.

Borrell Associates, a Virginia-based media tracking firm, revealed that political adspend allocated to broadcast TV reached $4.4bn in 2016, but this was down by nearly 20% from the $5.45bn spent in 2012. Radio also witnessed a significant fall of 23% to $621m.

However, as reported by Advertising Age, digital advertising – ranging from video to mobile, email, social and search – attracted $1.4bn of campaign dollars, or a massive 789% increase on the $159m the category took in 2012.

Cable TV also saw a steep increase of 52% to $1.35bn in 2016 while direct mail adspend grew around 6% to $301m. According to the research, digital advertising and cable TV accounted for about 14% each of total political adspend last year.

Advertising Age said that the new statistics reflected a broader trend taking place in the industry – that of marketers using data to make campaigns more targetable while also improving their media buying capabilities.

Kip Cassino, EVP at Borrell Associates, reinforced this point when he confirmed that the use of programmatic platforms to target audiences was a key driver of political ad expenditure during the 2016 election cycle. "It was absolutely the equaliser in getting your digital message to whoever you want to vote for you," he said.

Donald Trump's relatively low level of spending was another notable feature of the recent presidential campaign, and the Borrell report observed that his approach changed traditional ways of campaigning.

"The 2016 presidential campaign proved, for the first time, that a candidate doesn't have to match or outspend an opponent in TV commercials – or even in overall funds raised – to win an election," the report said. "That revelation has changed the trajectory."

Data sourced from Advertising Age; additional content by Warc staff