Sep 23 2020
Basis Technologies

Election Advertising 2020: Impacts by Format and Channel


Centro’s Candidates and Causes team has been at the forefront of political advertising in digital media since 2006. In our Election Advertising 2020 series, they share insights for advertisers ahead of the U.S. 2020 General Election.

Election Advertising Impact by Channel:


Centro forecasts the impact of election ad spending on programmatic demand primarily in the final five to six weeks leading up to the election. Rates are expected to increase by 15-20% or more during this timeframe, particularly for video inventory and in key battleground states.


With many social platforms restricting or limiting political advertisers, increased demand and rates will be most seen on Facebook’s family of apps (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger) due to the large scale, targeting capabilities, and overall performance.


Google prohibits political advertisers from targeting voters outside of geography, age, gender, and contextual alignments across search, display, and YouTube.

Despite these regulations, we don’t expect to see a decrease in ad spend within the Google Properties based on the high visibility of these platforms. Due to the specificity of keywords that can be applied within paid search, the increased traffic should not affect rates for advertisers outside of the political sphere.

Site Direct

Site direct investment has been decreasing steadily since 2012, largely due to programmatic technology and the availability of high-quality targeting at scale. Despite this, there are site direct partners that have seen significant ad dollars for political messaging.

Hulu, for example, was a standout partner for Centro in 2018 and is expected to be a big player this fall. Local advertisers should anticipate inventory constraints in these final two months across key battleground states. National advertisers are unlikely to see much impact given the scale of these platforms (Hulu, Pandora, YouTube, etc.)

Election Advertising Impact by Format

Video is the preferred format for political messaging, due to its storytelling ability. TV will continue to have the bulk share of ad spend in 2020, with broadcast networks and cable TV expected to account for 53% and 17% of total political ad spend, respectively1. Online video is expected to be the primary format within digital, with connected TV spend expected to be as high as $720 million in 20203.

According to a recent Nielsen study, while traditional TV usage is beginning to normalize post-shelter-in-place restrictions, connected TV usage remains above pre-COVID-19 levels. It’s estimated that approximately 40% of ‘persuadable’ voters do not subscribe to traditional TV services5, further illustrating the power CTV will have in reaching voters during this final stretch of campaigning.

Whether through direct partnerships (i.e. Hulu, Roku) or programmatically in the open exchange and private marketplace deals, non-political advertisers running in battleground states or key congressional districts should expect to feel increased competition and demand. Centro recommends padding desktop and mobile video rates by 10-15% and further cushioning CTV by 15-25%.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of our Election Advertising 2020 series to learn more about how this election season will impact advertisers.

Learn more about Video Advertising with Centro.