Ad Spend for 2020 Election Cycle Projected to Reach $6 Billion

Digital media will account for 20% of the pie, about $1.2 billion

a tv showing donald trump
Broadcast and cable political ad spend will still be a significant portion of the 2020 election advertising pie. Getty Images

The 2020 election cycle is projected to generate $6 billion in political advertising from presidential, federal and state candidates and their campaigns, according to a new study from Kantar, a consultancy company.

Digital ad spend is expected to grow substantially, accounting for 20% of the total spend, about $1.2 billion. Despite declining linear ratings, broadcast is projected to take in $3.2 billion and cable $1.2 billion, according to the study. The study did not include ads sponsored by PACs.

One thing to watch in the coming year: how money is spent on the OTT and connected TV space.

“The OTT, CTV space helps fill in the gap a bit from the missing ratings and its ability to target and use good data to target the voters that you really want to reach,” said Steve Passwaiter, general manager for the CMAG service at Kantar’s media division.

Digital has previously been a growing space for campaigns. In 2016, for example, the Clinton campaign spent 2.5% of the total media budget on digital, Sanders spent 25% and Trump spent more than 40% on digital.

This study didn’t project how much of the budgets will go to connected TV or OTT, which is seen by campaigns as a reach extender with great targeting abilities, according to Passwaiter.

“There are still some challenges in OTT. Is there great interest in it? Absolutely, but the issue remains scale,” he said.

Political advertising might also crowd out brand advertising, particularly in local TV markets in battleground states. At the beginning of the 2016 election cycle, political advertising in local markets in Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina and Pennsylvania accounted for 26% of local ad time. That increased to 32% by the end of the cycle, the analysis found.

Nonpolitical advertisers, meanwhile, saw their spot TV shares in those local markets decrease from 77% to 51% in that same period.

As the industry enters the 2020 cycle, Passwaiter said the group is conscious of the places OTT and social have in the conversation, both of which he projects will continue to grow.

“I do not foresee a future that we don’t have that factored into our thinking somewhat,” Passwaiter said.

@SaraJerde Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.