2020 Federal Election Ad Spend Forecast to Reach $6 Billion

August 15, 2019

With the US federal elections a little more than a year away, the influx of political advertising is soon to hit full swing. This time around, according to a report by Kantar, campaigns will spend an estimated $6 billion in advertising, with 20% of the total going towards digital advertising.

Kantar’s predicted $6 billion figure is calculated by using the increase in spending seen between the 2004 and 2018 elections as a guide to arrive at $10 billion in total political spending ($8.7 billion in federal spending; $1.3 billion in non-federal spending). Kantar then estimates that message delivery accounts for 60% of campaign budgets, thus arriving at the estimated $6 billion in ad spending. It should be noted that this figure only includes ads sponsored by federal campaigns and does not reflect ads paid for by PACs.

Not surprisingly, traditional advertising will see the largest share of political ad spend. More than half ($3.2 billion) of 2020 federal campaign spending is expected to be spent on broadcast TV ads, while another $1.2 billion is forecast to go towards cable TV ads. Radio, which has been found to have larger reach among American adults than other platforms, is predicted to see $400 million in political ad spend.

The shift towards digital advertising began in earnest during the 2016 election and continues into the 2020 campaign season, with digital ad spend expected to total $1.2 billion – matching the level of cable TV.

What does this inevitable flood of political ads mean to brands? As the political season ramps up, it means it will be harder for brands to be heard over the noise. Kantar points out that during weeks 30-33 of 2016, around three-quarters (77%) of local TV ad time in 15 markets was for non-political ads (6% share were political ads). Towards the end of the campaign in weeks 42-45 (October 17 through November 13), non-political advertisers saw their share of ad time drop to 51%, while political ad time leaped to 32%.

To read more, the report can be downloaded here.

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