We enter 2023 coming off a record-breaking year for digital ad spending in political circles. At a time when many brands were pulling back on advertising because of fluctuating consumer spending habits, political advertisers—comparatively immune to those economic concerns—poured so much money into campaigns that they buttressed the otherwise slow-moving US ad market.
Total investment in political ads last year hit a projected $9.7 billion, representing a staggering 144% gain over 2018’s election cycle and $660 million more than 2020—all despite no Presidential race at the top of the ticket. Given that midterms traditionally have lower voter turnout, these vast sums indicate that advertisers are willing to spend more per vote than in the past, establishing a precedent that will likely ripple into 2024 and push the US to a stunning new norm: the $10+ billion election.
As we start building towards that through 2023, there are three key trendlines for advertisers to watch:
Programmatic advertising is the bread and butter of any political team—92% reported it was an important component of their 2022 campaigns. However, premium placements and sponsorships with key thought leadership publications and newsletters still play a crucial role. The emergence of new players (Punchbowl, Semafor, and Pluribus, among others) alongside the mainstay publications has created more fragmentation in this space than ever before.
Advertisers can’t buy real estate in every online news outlet, so carefully choosing the right placements and partners per available budget is imperative. Against a climate of decreasing trust in social media among policy influencers, securing a footprint adjacent to reputable journalistic content is vital to engaging audiences.
Here at Basis, we observed a whopping 1,500% increase in political spending on connected TV devices in the first half of 2022 compared with H1 2020, and this powerful shift into streaming is set to be the most impactful trendline through 2023 (and 2024). There was tremendous adoption of CTV up and down the ballot through the 2022 midterms, and that is starting to carry over to public affairs and corporate reputation advertising. As consumers continue to cut the cord and new streaming inventory becomes available at scale, CTV is an increasingly viable channel for reaching even niche influencer audiences—provided advertisers are tapping into the right targeting and buying options.
Advocacy and public affairs advertisers are inherently tasked with reaching very specific audiences via the precise targeting capabilities of digital. But as we get closer to a cookieless future, those capabilities are facing an evolution.
2023 is going to be the targeting proving ground, where winners and losers will likely emerge among the alternative ID solutions, and having the ability to tap into multiple options will be essential to continued success. Exploring other solutions outside audience-based strategies is also increasingly important—contextual targeting, for example, offers opportunities across desktop, mobile, and connected TV. As usual, the only constant in digital media is constant change, and it’s all about how you navigate it.
Want to learn about some of the macro trends affecting digital marketing more generally? Check out our 2023 Trends Report to stay ahead of the curve as you plan for the year ahead.