Although the much-anticipated shift from TV and mail to digital has yet to materialize, it’s no surprise to digital marketers that our share of campaign budgets is growing with every cycle.
In fact, according to Borrell Associates, political digital ad spending increased exponentially from $35 million in 2014 to $2.3 BILLION in 2018. This is a positive trend and a sign of things to come, but we’re still a long way from realizing the full potential of digital campaigning.
The good news is that, along with the increased investment, political parties and campaigns are also seeing increased returns online.
From Roll Call:
“For the first time, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which led the successful effort to flip the House, had digital strategists on each of its regional teams. It also launched an in-house digital ad agency for both its coordinated spending and its independent expenditure arm. And staffers monitored and drove social media conversations and generated original digital content.
“It was an investment that paid off three or four hundred times,” DCCC executive director Dan Sena said. At the most recent count, House Democrats had picked up 40 seats, their highest for a midterm election since 1974.”
Republicans also spent big online with the NRCC making the list of Facebook’s top advertisers, dropping almost $2.6 million on the platform, though it wasn’t enough to hold their majority in the House of Representatives.
Still, when you consider that TV advertising alone accounted for $7.6 billion in campaign spending in the 2018 cycle, it becomes clear that digital has a lot of room left to grow.
“Even with the increased online activity, strategists on both sides say campaigns are still slow to adopt digital-focused strategies…Veteran consultants could be more reluctant to spend limited campaign funds on new technology. Some strategists also noted that those consultants’ compensation is tied to ad buys, incentivizing them to encourage spending on the more expensive TV airwaves.”
That culture of consultants advocating for their own bottom line won’t change overnight, but it is changing.
As candidates themselves are becoming more digitally savvy and more campaigns are being run by millennials who grew up in a digital-first world, budget priorities will continue to shift away from what makes a few people rich and instead focus on the channel that reaches the most voters for the lowest cost.