Cassino expects the amount spent per voter to remain flat in 2020, but he sees reason for optimism – as long as you’re in digital.
“This was a big year for programmatic, and there’s good reason to think that’s going to remain the case moving forward,” Cassino said.
Broadcast TV was the single biggest advertising channel for political advertising last year and is expected to retain the title in 2020, but it lost about $1 billion worth of market share, essentially ceding those budgets to digital, though cable grew the TV pie by almost half a billion dollars. Borrell forecasts another $1 billion loss for broadcast in 2020, with digital adding more than $1.4 billion.
“Gone are the days when someone thought they’d have to hit every house in a neighborhood to get the handful they needed,” Cassino said. “Campaigns will have a much clearer sense of which few messages they want a potential voter to receive, and who they think they’ve lost and won’t be interested in at all.”
Programmatic also emerged as an unstable variable in the political spending equation. Some of the questions that Cassino’s team felt most uncertain about, such as the role of social apps in future elections or how programmatic buying would upset the established political media and agency landscape, involve technology that’s difficult to forecast with much confidence.
“What we can say is there’s every reason to believe programmatic is going to be the driver of political spending,” Cassino said.
And 2017 will be an indicator of digital durability. After political buyers spent a measly $18 million on digital in 2013 – the first year of the last cycle – Borrell expects $480 million in political digital advertising this year.
“We know the money’s going to be available,” Cassino said, pointing to energy-related advocacy groups and others with big outreach plans as well as Senate battleground matchups receiving unprecedented early attention. “And I don’t think money’s going to be floating without digital players getting their hands on it.”