Allocating Outside the Box: Reimagining Political Ad Spending

Allocating Outside the Box: Reimagining Political Ad Spending
With great polarization comes great ad spending… 

In recent years, the political climate has become more polarized than ever before, and each side is running further and further from the other. With the “middle” slowly depleting into extinction, the effects of the ad campaigns on either end of the spectrum have become increasingly plausible for reaching the remaining and increasingly rare middle. Reaching these undecided voters and targeting swing states will continue to be a competitive battle — the winner will most likely be the side that learned how to best adapt to the changing advertising landscape.

Polarization Driving Ad Spending

Just as polarization is growing more apparent, ad spending is simultaneously climbing to new heights. Political campaign budgets aren’t simply growing, they are skyrocketing – and they are bringing in results. These immense budgets are forming a now billion-dollar industry that is proving its efficiency in more ways than one. 

Ad spending has also been deeply impacted by the 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The loss of funding regulations and limitations that resulted from this decision made for an even larger spike than what was initially expected, despite reforms that have been made in the 10+ years since the ruling. 

In the ten-year period between 2010 and 2020 political ad spending in the U.S. went from around 14 million to well over two billion dollars. This monumental jump signifies a new era in political advertising. Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg alone were responsible for spending a combined amount of almost $200 million on Facebook and Google ads in just a five-month period during the 2020 election. 

Yet, this phenomenon doesn’t just apply to the big spenders at the top; local government campaigns are seeing skips and leaps in spending patterns too and all of the races, from major league to minor are feeling the pressure to spend more. 

The New Landscape of Budget Allocation

Not only are budgets increasing by the millions (or hundred-millions) each year, but the allocations of political campaign budgets are becoming more and more diverse as well. Gone are the days of solely investing in black and white newspaper columns or even creating two-minute commercial productions for cable TV. The internet, social media, and CTV have completely reshaped and divided up major ad budgets.

Another area of the landscape that is growing in influence is TikTok. The video platform is becoming a considerably efficient way to reach young voters. Although there are limitations to political advertising on social platforms, the potential viral reach is a way to spread information quickly and impactfully. 

Advertisers, campaign managers, media buyers, and even politicians need to consider casting a net that is as wide as possible without damaging KPIs. It is important to find content sites that generate high engagement from niche, coveted audiences. One way to do this is by investing in content types that are hubs for creating focused impacts, such as finance sites

Content Meets Reach

What campaign budgeting comes down to is not just knowing who the voters are demographically, but understanding their interests. Where are they investing their time? What kinds of content interest them? 

The answer is not as simple as advertisers may think, and, in fact, it involves some creativity. The truth is that voters are not pigeon-held to news sites. Voters are gamers. Voters are shoppers. Voters are music lovers. Voters care about money.

Today, advertisers need to reimagine the possibilities that exist for their campaigns. Allocating ad budgets in a way that is effective requires innovation, a deep understanding of your audience, and, of course, some thinking outside the box.