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Get ready for your social media feeds to be inundated by political advertising content as we head into the peak of the 2020 election cycle. According to preliminary estimates released by Kantar Media, political ad spending by candidates could reach $6 billion for the 2020 election cycle, with a sizable chunk of that ad spend dedicated to digital channels such as social media and search. In fact, as much as $1.2 billion of that figure (about 20 percent overall) could be earmarked for digital. And this estimate does not even include spending by PACs or Super PACs, so get ready for a lot of ad content being distributed across digital channels.
Taking a big picture view, that $6 billion political ad spending figure represents a notable increase from the 2018 election cycle, when political ad spending reached $5.25 billion. And the figure of $6 billion represents a more than doubling of all political ad spending in 2014. Remember those kinder, gentler days when former President Barack Obama seemed to be the only politician who “got” social media? Well, those days are over. These days, every top candidate recognizes the enormous power of digital and social to drive election results, gain credibility, push out a message, and motivate the base.
Ad spending in battleground states
The competition for digital eyeballs will be greatest in the so-called “battleground states” where the election results are so close and hard to call that they could be decided by, well, a single hanging chad. According to Kantar Media, in states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Carolina, as much as 32 percent of the local ad time on TV is going to be political. In other words, 1 in 3 ads you see on TV during the 2020 election will likely be for one of the presidential candidates.
Implications for brands
A big factor here will be the “crowding out” of traditional advertisers by political advertisers. A lot of this has to do with available inventory – many of the traditional advertising outlets will have more demand than they know what to do with in 2020. And another big factor has to do with brands keeping a low profile during a potential dogfight of an election. Now’s not the time for brands to throw their weight behind one candidate or the other. Far better to take the high road and run some sort of PSA along the lines of, “Brand X supports the right of every legal American to vote. Get out and vote for your favorite candidate on Election Day…”
Staying top of mind with consumers throughout the election
That being said, what’s the best way for brands to stay top-of-mind with consumers during a long, protracted election cycle? If you assume that one-third of all ads shown on broadcast or cable TV will be political in nature, it’s only natural to assume that brands will migrate to some of the less popular social media platforms where there is actual ad inventory. Instead of focusing on Facebook, for example, why not explore other social media platforms where your fans and followers are hanging out? Now might be a good time to rekindle your love affair with Pinterest or check out what interesting things an upstart social network like TikTok can offer.
One thing is certain: now is the time for brands to start considering some non-traditional advertising options. In 2020, it appears, the only thing that people will be talking about on most online platforms is the 2020 presidential election. If you want your brand to stay top of mind during the year, it’s worth exploring how to leverage other social media platforms beyond just Facebook and YouTube.