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Digital ad dollars to boom in 2016 political ad cycle

The cool kid on the political advertising block is digital. But for all the headlines, digital will only break the billion dollar mark for the first time in the 2015/2016 presidential year cycle, according to a forecast by research firm Borrell Associations.

Search, social media and digital display ads and videos will garner only a 6.6 percent share of political ad dollars—less than for radio, newspapers or cable.

The biggest part of digital’s panache is the explosive growth of the medium, which ballooned from a fraction of a percent of political ad spending in 2008, to 1.5 percent in 2012, and to 6.6 percent forecast in 2016.

While the biggest beneficiary of political dollars in 2016 is still broadcast television at 52 percent, that’s a big slip from the 62 percent of political ad dollars that TV garnered in 2008. Borrell also forecasts that, in the 2020 presidential election cycle, “…broadcast TV’s fall from political ad spending grace will be breathtaking.”  In 2020, broadcast TV’s political ad dollars will decline to $4.7 billion, shedding almost 14 share points, according to Borrell.

Digital is forecast to gain what broadcast TV is losing and more. Digital is forecast to grow to 26 percent of political ad spending during the 2020 cycle.

Share of political ad dollars by medium

US TOTALS (Billions)$16.451$9.839$6.981
BROADCAST TV51.9%57.3%61.9%
OUT OF HOME5.1%3.8%3.5%
DiRECT MAIL3.3%2.9%3.3%
OTHER PRINT2.3%1.8%1.4%

The crowded presidential race is always front and center in any discussion of political advertising, but for all the record breaking presidential ad spending projected for 2016, the Senate, House and local races account for nearly 78 percent of all political ad spending.

Share of political ad dollars by 2016 contest

State AG$165.11.5%
State Assembly$1,660.914.6%
Ballot Issues$1,641.514.4%
Special Interests$1,515.213.3%

In the 2015-2016 election cycle, political spending is forecast to reach nearly $16.5  billion, with $5.1 billion to be  spent the run-up year of 2015, and the remaining $11.4 billion in the 2016 Presidential election year.

Parties, candidates, special interest lobbies, PACs, and Super PACs are forecasted to spend nearly $51 per eligible voter in 2016, up from $41 per voter spent in 2012.