Political Advertising and What to Expect in the 2020 US Election

With the U.S. presidential election now less than a year away, an understanding of how much candidates will be spending on their advertising campaigns and where they will be spending it is essential for brands trying to find advertising space in the soon-to-be flooded market. 

Kantar estimates that $6 billion will be spent on campaign advertising for the 2020 presidential election, according to our latest report, ‘Political Advertising Trends: What to Expect in 2020.’ 

Steve Passwaiter, General Manager for our Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), highlights that there is “little doubt that 2020 is set to be a record year…for political ad spending,” as most election cycles usually are.

Broadcast TV takes the lead

Broadcast TV is set to receive the largest portion of candidates’ spending, but digital ads are likely to play a significant role in next year’s race, with Kantar estimating the candidates will spend 20 percent ($1.2 billion) on these channels. 

The amount candidates can raise during their campaign dictates how much they can spend on and where they can place their advertising. This is shown by recent broadcasting spots secured by Donald Trump and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaigns. The President’s re-election campaign was able to run a $250,000 ad during Game 7 of the World Series. In contrast, Warren’s campaign spent $27,000 on her first TV ad (‘Root Out Corruption’), placed during an Iowa State v. Oklahoma State football game.

Geographical placement of ads and use of local TV stations is of particular importance in battleground states, including Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Political ad time and spending is likely to be highest in these states, leaving a shrunken market for other brand advertising. Kantar’s analysis of the 2016 presidential election cycle found that during the last weeks of campaigning, political advertising captured 32% of local ad time within the battleground states examined.

Facebook monopolises on political advertising

The digital ad landscape is likely to be further impacted by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s recent decision to “stop all political advertising on Twitter globally,” effective 22 November. For those candidates with less funds for advertising, it will become harder to get their political message out to audiences and build up a support base.

However, Twitter’s move may not impact the digital advertising market as much as you may think. CMAG’s estimates put Facebook, along with Google, as having ‘about 60 percent of the digital ad market.’ In addition, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg’s re-assertion that the company will continue to allow political ads unchecked makes it unlikely that Facebook will follow suit, and the social media channel looks set to retain its strong preference among Democratic and Republican candidates alike. 

According to figures from Kantar’s partner Pathmatics, President Trump has spent “close to $17 million on Facebook advertising, with Bernie Sanders the next-highest spender at $6.2 million.”

Looking ahead with AP Planner

Kantar is not only monitoring spending and advertising for the campaign season but tracking the activity of all the candidates over the next 12 months on Kantar Forward Planning Services’ AP Planner and its dedicated 2020 Election Daybook, produced through a partnership with the Associated Press.

Having already covered over 1,000 campaign activities and campaign-related events over the past three months and nearly 200 additional items already listed and constantly added to for the coming 12 months, the AP Planner can help you plan your coverage and understand the main issues at hand in 2020.

The service covers events ranging from candidate meet and greets and campaign stops to all the key election dates and major political conventions, with the Iowa caucuses in February kicking off the primary season. 

The combination of CMAG Media Division’s regular monitoring of election advertising and Forward Planning’s tracking of where the candidates are and what they are saying means Kantar can help you keep on top of coverage and help brands plan for effective advertising during the 2020 election cycle. 

Read the full Kantar report here

Meg Deschamps is the U.S. News Team Leader of Forward Planning Services at Kantar. 

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