Digital Political Ad Spending to Skyrocket in 2016

While TV is still the dominant destination for political ad spend, spending on digital channels, is increasing the fastest year over year. In fact, US political ad spending on digital is estimated to nearly quadruple compared to 2014, according to research.

According to estimates from Nomura Securities, broadcast TV makes up the largest share of US political ad spending. In 2016, the channel is estimated to account for $6.06 billion of political ad spending or 59.4% of the total—a slight decrease in percentage compared to 2014. But when compared to 2012, the last presidential election year, TV’s loss is larger, at 4.6 percentage points. And compared to 2008, the last time there was a presidential election without an incumbent, broadcast TV’s share of political ad spending was nearly 10 points higher than it will be this year.

Cable TV, which makes up the second-largest share, is estimated to account for $1.10 billion this year or 10.8% of total US political ad spend.

Digital, however, is predicted to see the biggest growth, compared to prior years. Indeed, the channel is projected to account for $1.00 billion of political ad spending or 9.8% of the total. To compare, digital saw $270 million in political ad spending in 2014, 3.6% of total political ad spending. And in 2012, the last presidential election year, political advertisers spent just $160 million on digital advertising. Going back to 2008, the last presidential election year with no incumbent, digital was barely on the radar with just $20 million in political ad spending.

Political Ad Formats that Are Effective in Influencing the Voting Behavior of US Internet Users, Jan 2016 (% of respondents in each group)

Radio is also estimated to increase its political ad revenues compared with the 2014 midterm year, though spending will hold about steady compared with the prior presidential election. In 2014, the channel received $490 million in US political ad spending and this year it’s estimated to get $850 million—in line with 2012 levels.

It’s not surprising that television still makes up the largest share of political ad spending. According to January 2016 research from Kelly Scott Madison (KSM) and ORC International, television is the most effective political ad format influencing voting behavior across all generations.

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