Political Video Advertising in 2020: The Campaigns Behind the Campaign

Political Video Advertising in 2020: The Campaigns Behind the Campaign
It happens every other year. Elections in the United States boost ad-spend, especially towards the end of the year. While political ad spend never stops, especially on the big platforms, these election seasons take it to another level entirely. In election years (presidential or midterm), and around November in particular, political advertisements can become a significant share of total revenue for publishers and ad tech vendors.

In addition to the political climate being exceptionally heated this year, another wrinkle has entered the equation; the ongoing pandemic. With online becoming more appealing for political advertising, spend has shown a big leap since the initial drop due to the onset of the lockdowns, and, according to Primis data, that spend has increased by 441% over political spend in January.   

2020 Political ad spend graph by Primis

This is also reflected by the share of political ad spend out of Primis’ total revenue. Although many other ad categories managed to recover in Q3, after the initial shock of COVID wore off, political budgets have taken an even bigger share. Political video ad spend has grown from just 4.2% of overall ad spend to 12.4% in just the past two months. This trend is predicted to hit a crescendo in November.

2020 political ad spend share

Political Media Buying: The KPIs You Need to Know 

There are certain factors that media buyers should look for in political campaigns. We’ve gathered here the most important aspects to consider when assessing the quality of ad traffic.

Contextual Targeting

The importance of ads fitting naturally in context cannot be overstated. Ads that are contextually relevant are 43% more engaging

When it comes to political advertising there is an additional layer of importance. While it’s common sense that political ads should be shown on articles that discuss politics or current events, it is also important to place the ads alongside topics that don’t conflict with their political leanings. 


Geofencing is a way to obtain very specific location data (e.g. around a business, shop, etc.) from a mobile user and target them with relevant ads. In 2016, Donald Trump’s campaign used this technique to push catholic churchgoers in Wisconsin toward voting. That helped him win the state by fewer than 23,000 votes. 

Smart targeting of audiences is key in political media buying. Cross-referencing that with data, like voter rolls is a powerful combination. 


While many ad campaigns rely on data, there is no doubt that data will make or break the success of a political campaign. Whether it’s 1st-party data or 3rd-party, data is necessary to reach a desired audience. It can also be helpful in finding and targeting voters who are still struggling to decide. 


Usually, all of the previously mentioned targeting options mean that the audience is limited. In order to reach your desired audience, budgets must be diversified across various platforms and formats so that the specific audiences can be found. That can include web, apps, CTV and more. 

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As with any digital campaign, constant optimization is key for a successful campaign. Monitor your campaign’s viewability rate to make sure your ads are being seen. Also, completion rates can help identify if the ad was interesting for the user and to constantly monitor the effectiveness of each ad. Keep an eye on brand safety so that your budgets will be spent in appropriate settings. 

Having these stats aligned is a pretty good sign that you are on the right track.

There are a lot of shared attributes between succeeding in political media buying, and buying media for other campaigns. However, the need to scale quickly, yet reach users in a safe and effective manner truly raises the stakes.