What’s different about this presidential election year?

April 26, 2024
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    For starters, it’s the year political ad spending will reach an all-time high–with overall ad-spending reaching an amount larger than the entire ad market of Australia. Political ad spending will set a new record this year at around $11 billion in spending, though estimates range from $10 billion to $14 billion. That’s an increase of between 13% and 30% from the last record set during the 2020 election cycle, which saw slightly over $9 billion in political spending.

    $2.7 billion of that money will go to the presidential election, while another $7.5 billion will go to other candidates–those running for Senate and House seats, and state and local office. Around $2.1 billion will go to Senate candidate spending, while $1.7 billion will go to House candidates–spending driven up by the slim margin by which each party currently has control. However, by far the most political advertising spending will go down-ballot candidates running for state and local office, at $3.3 billion.

    While as always, local TV news holds the majority when it comes to ad spending, digital spending is beginning to take up a bigger piece of the pie–it’s seeing a 156% increase from the last presidential election year. While digital platforms used to see a very small amount of political advertising, this year will be much different.

    We’re seeing more digital and more social advertising–and on top of that, marketers are beginning to use AI for far more than just targeting. With Google and Meta (big spenders on political marketing this year) beginning to crack down on misleading AI-generated political content, it’s still a tool that campaigners are just beginning to find a use for.

    How traditional polling methods and data fall short

    Now that not all the money is going to broadcast TV–and increasingly, digital platforms like CTV are seeing more viewers, and therefore, more political advertisement budgets divested here, it’s time to engage in more granular ad targeting–which can also cost less. Granular ad targeting will also be necessary for targeting users on social media platforms and more.

    So rather than throwing money away to target wide swaths of the population that may not be persuaded by your campaigning, you should focus on the exact audience that can, and will, be moved. That means going beyond the polls and including consumer data, which can help you narrow down your audience to persuadable swing voters.

    Beyond demographic data–into consumption

    When it comes to political marketing, both parties will typically tap data companies to create a database of voter profiles, with millions of data points and modeling capabilities to predict how consumers will stand on certain issues and their feelings on candidates.

    So to win, you need more–and better–data.

    Political campaigns use data on Americans. And the party with the most accurate data gets an edge over their opponent–it’s a key component that will give any political marketer an edge.

    We’re aware of the purpose of polls to determine likely voter results. And we know that income, living area, race, religion, and more play a role, too. But what about where people shop? What car they drive? Where they get their coffee? Those are indicators of likely voter behavior, too.

    Overlaying poll and demographic data with purchase behavior data can give you a more accurate, refined look at your target audience.

    While some news publications have noticed the “Whole Foods” bubble–that is, most democratic voters live within five miles of a Whole Foods–it’s up to political marketers to find the independent voters that also match the profile of the democratic Whole Foods-shopper. 

    The political-cultural crossover is one embraced by brands and voters alike.  Political leanings are not just ideological, but cultural. Lifestyle brands know this and take advantage of that fact–and every political marketer can do the same.

    Swing voters this year, like any year, will be important to the outcome of any of the elections. They make up a considerable portion of the electorate, and their ultimate decisions create a significant effect on election outcomes.