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Facebook and TV dominate political ad spending, suggesting advertisers think older voters are key to winning

Facebook and TV dominate political ad spending, suggesting advertisers think older voters are key to winning
[Photo: Jon Sailer/Unsplash; Lucian Novosel/Unsplash]

Research firm eMarketer has released a report looking at the political advertising trends of the 2019/2020 election cycle, and it’s found that overall the amount of money groups are spending on political ads is up an astounding 63.3% to $6.89 billion compared to the previous 2015/2016 election cycle.

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What’s interesting is the majority of spending goes to just two sources: television and Facebook. What do the two have in common? They’re both used more frequently by older voters, suggesting that advertisers seem confident that that group of voters will decide the outcome of the election.

In the 2019/2020 election cycle, political ad spending on television will reach $4.55 billion—a 66% share of political advertising across all mediums. As eMarketer forecasting analyst Eric Haggstrom notes, “Despite cord-cutting and declining viewership, TV still offers strong reach, particularly among older Americans who are likely to vote. The vast majority of this spending goes to local broadcast or cable/satellite providers, as political advertisers focus on states, or even ZIP codes, that can swing an election.”

That’s not to say digital political advertising isn’t playing a large role in this election cycle. The thing is, a majority of digital political ad spend is happening on just one platform: Facebook. While $1.34 billion is expected to be spent on digital political ads this election cycle, eMarketer found that a whopping 59.4% of that spend went to showing those ads on Facebook’s platform. That comes out to be worth around a cool $796.8 million for Facebook.

As for why Facebook garners such a high digital political ad share, Haggstrom said, “Facebook offers reach, targeting capabilities and ease of use that appeal to political advertisers. Candidates can more quickly and easily send ads to potential supporters compared with TV or radio. In a competitive election, timeliness, efficiency and relevancy are incredibly important.”

Facebook also happens to be the social media platform of choice for older voters.

After Facebook, Google is runner-up when it comes to digital political ad spend. The search giant is expected to capture 18.2% digital political ad spend during this election cycle, with a majority of the money spent going to display ads on YouTube. As Haggstrom explains, “YouTube is popular because campaigns can run the same or similar ads that they are running on TV, while reaching a different audience. Additionally, YouTube allows candidates to test and experiment with various ads before running them on TV.”

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