The State of Political Ad Spending on Connected TV
by Frankie Karrer5 min read
- During the 2020 election cycle, political advertisers represented the top spending category on Connected TV.
- Around $1.5 billion is expected to be spent on CTV by political advertisers in 2022, more than the $1.3 billion that is expected to be spent on mobile, desktop and tablets.
- CTV’s brand safety, targeting, and local advertising capabilities make it an attractive channel for political advertisers.
As political advertisers begin to ramp up their campaigns for the 2022 election cycle, it’s time to take a look at how they are shifting their budgets to better reach prospective voters.
With midterms fast approaching, political advertisers are making decisions about where to allocate their spend to ensure their campaigns reach potential voters. Less than four years ago, the majority of political ad dollars were being spent on broadcast and linear. But the rise of digital advertising has created a new opportunity for these political campaigns to reach prospective voters in a targeted, measurable way. And one channel that is expected to see a lot of growth in interest from these advertisers in 2022 is Connected TV.
CTV Advertising in the Last Election Cycle
The election cycle in 2020 was one of the first times that political advertisers began to experiment with adding Connected TV to their campaign mixes. In fact, political advertisers were the top vertical of CTV spenders that year, and allocated nine percent more than the other top categories like auto, and health and fitness.
At the time however, the then growing channel did not have enough inventory available to become a large portion of political advertising budgets. As a result, in some states with competitive Senate races around 20% of people who saw political ads on Connected TV received an estimated 80% of the impressions served.
Even still, in 2020 alone there was over a 500% increase in political ad spend on Connected TV from the primary election cycle which occurred from February through July, to the general election cycle covering August through November.
Political Advertisers Are Upping the Ante on CTV in 2022
While last election cycle saw CTV rise in popularity, in 2022 the channel is expected to hit its stride. According to Axios, roughly $1.5 billion is expected to be spent on CTV by political advertisers. This is more than the $1.3 billion combined that is expected to be spent on digital channels like mobile, desktop and tablet.
That rise in interest by political campaigns is in part because Connected TV’s overall viewership has increased over the last few years. There are now 223.3 million CTV viewers in the US alone, and according to Nielsen streaming’s share of TV viewing time recently rose to a new high of 30%.
A report from Audience Project discovered that many of these new CTV households are a result of cord-cutting from linear. The study found that 30% of Americans don’t watch any linear and are pure streamers, and only 44% see themselves watching linear TV in 5 years. Younger audience groups are even more likely to watch Connected TV, with Americans aged 15-55 preferring streaming over linear TV. And as more and more streamers turn to ad-supported content to cut costs, the audiences that are reachable through Connected TV will only continue to grow.
Increased viewership will help to offset some of the frequency problems political advertisers saw last election cycle. In fact, it’s likely that those problems will be moved over to linear TV, which is now seeing issues in inventory that are similar to what CTV experienced in 2020. This is due to the increasing number of consumers who are cutting the cord on their cable subscriptions. A report from Samba TV found that 97% of the linear impressions in Q4 were served to only half of viewers. “With more and more households cutting the cord, a linear-only strategy no longer has the capacity to reach all TV viewers or those who are increasingly shifting towards streaming platforms altogether,” stated the report.
Connected TV Benefits for Political Campaigns
There are a number of reasons that political advertisers are looking to Connected TV to reach prospective voters in the 2022 election cycle.
- Less Reliance on Cookie-Driven Advertising: One of the main reasons political advertisers are turning to Connected TV over digital channels is that it doesn’t rely on cookie data to reach prospective voters. With the recent crackdown on privacy in the world of digital advertising, political campaigns are looking for a channel that can still reach voters in a more targeted way than linear, while sidestepping some of the minefields that advertising on digital can present.
- Brand Safety Concerns: Political advertisers have been increasingly wary of running their campaigns on social media due to concerns about the safety of their messaging. And similarly, some social media platforms have been cracking down on political advertising and adopting new privacy measures. Advertising on Connected TV circumvents those issues while still reaching desired audiences. However, it’s important to note that there are a couple of CTV channels that will also not be accessible to political advertisers. Disney+ recently indicated that their upcoming ad-supported tier will not accept political advertising at launch.
- Powerful Targeting and Measurement Capabilities: Unlike traditional linear TV, Connected TV ads are highly targetable, and political campaigns will have the ability to find voters based on criteria that goes beyond just age and demographics (such as interests and purchasing behavior). CTV’s targeting abilities also make it easier for advertisers to reach a specific community of voters through local targeting. And once a political message has reached a viewer, Connected TV provides a number of measurement options for tracking the success of that campaign. According to Mark Positano, VP of media at data agency i360, which provides voter data to campaigns and agencies, “Going back to 2014, 2016 and even 2018, most of what was done in the television space was linear. That still has purpose today, but it wasn’t as targeted as we needed it to be.”
In 2022 we can expect to see a huge shift in the way political advertisers reach their target voters due to the rise of Connected TV. This channel’s audience has not only boomed over the last two years, meaning a larger pool of potential voters to target, but the increase in inventory will allow political advertisers to allocate a larger amount of campaign budgets. Ultimately, political advertisers looking to get their message out to voters will be taking advantage of the brand safety and targeting and measurement capabilities available through Connected TV.
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