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Politicians Become Big Spenders This Election Cycle

With control of Congress on the line, more competitive races than in previous years and a seemingly heightened interest in the political process across the country, there is no advertising medium left unaffected by this year’s midterm elections.

From TV to digital, over-the-top media to social, with magazines, telemarketing, direct mail and more sprinkled in-between, if it gets eyeballs, you better believe that politicians are using it to get their message out to voters.

The increase in spend from the 2014 midterm elections can be at least partially linked to the increase in competitive races. Of the House seats up for grabs, 70 are considered competitive races, and in the Senate, 13 could be close. Thirty-six states are holding elections for governor, with 17 races looking tight. What’s more, President Trump and his PACs have also added $7.7 million to the pot.

Buckle up, because that’s just the beginning. We’re about to share a few figures that make the Mega Millions look like chump change.

This year’s political spend is expected to reach a whopping $8.9 billion by the time voters make it to the polls — an 8 percent increase from the 2014 elections, according to Borrell Associates. Television, cable, and digital are benefitting most, seeing the majority of dollars. Here’s a quick 2018 political spending breakdown:

  • Broadcast TV: $3.5 Billion (40 percent share)
  • Digital media: $1.8 Billion (20 percent)
  • Cable: $1.1 Billion (12.5 percent)
  • Newspapers/magazines: $723 million (8.1 percent)
  • Radio: $689 million (7.7 percent)
  • Telemarketing: $501 million (5.6 percent)
  • Out-of-home: $406 million (4.5 percent)
  • Direct mail: $225 million (2.5 percent)

Politicians are using integrated campaigns to get their message to as many potential voters as possible. Each media platform brings a different set of advantages.

Television remains king, claiming $5.3 billion between broadcast and cable. It’s a winning place to start, as broadcast TV is able to reach a wide audience, while cable adds targeting capabilities to reach a more specific target. Digital spending (which includes display, digital, video, email marketing and search) has increased as well, with President Trump’s 2016 campaign used as a successful model. And since 2014, spending in this area has ballooned more than 2,000 percent — up to $1.8 billion in 2018.

Over-the-top video (OTT) has seen a large increase from 2014, which provides a way for candidates to reach younger demographics who watch TV on their connected devices.

After the controversy with Russian interference in the 2016 election, Facebook, Google, and Twitter have implemented policies to make political ad buys more transparent. Facebook has included a required “paid for by,” disclosure in political ads. Twitter has added labels on political ads to say who is behind them, and Google now requires purchasers to provide a government issued ID to confirm they are U.S. citizens. This helps users better understand who is behind the ads they are being served. Billions of impressions have come from these three platforms alone, with President Trump leading in total number of ads on Facebook according to an NYU group study.

As potential voters, it’s nearly impossible to avoid seeing multiple political ads daily. The use of integrated campaigns is ensuring that both parties will get their message to you some way, somehow.

With Nov. 6 approaching, you can expect to see even more political messaging on your TV, phone, computer and in your mailbox.

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