Election year advertising: a publishers’ perspective

2024 is shaping up to be a major year globally for elections. Upcoming votes include those for the European Parliament (June), the UK (July), and of course the US presidency (November). Election years historically drive up advertising spend as political parties and their supporters compete for attention and influence. Which advertising channels and strategies will be the winners and losers in 2024? How will publishers position themselves? 

Read on to get our thoughts and predictions.

Surging ad spend and different approaches

Total US political ad spending will surpass $12 billion in 2024, an increase of almost 30% from the last presidential election in 2020, says Emarketer. In the UK, ad spend is considerably lower but shows interesting patterns. For instance: Sky News reports that Labour, the UK’s centre-left party, is currently outspending the incumbent party, the Conservatives, at a rate of 5 to 1 on Google-owned channels. The Conservatives, meanwhile, spent £15,000 on ads aimed at older, pro-monarchy voters

Growing channels: digital and CTV

Digital platforms will show the biggest growth in 2024. In the US, digital ad spending this political cycle will spike 156.0% over 2020 levels to reach $3.46 billion. A vital part of this segment is connected TV (CTV) advertising, which mirrors the trajectory of cord-cutting American households. Our recent blog post outlines the attractiveness of CTV advertising and its explosive growth in more detail. 

Traditional media: still relevant

Despite the growth of digital, traditional media remains hugely important. Given that older populations consistently have the highest voter turnout, this makes sense, and TV, print and radio are still the best channels to reach them. Ad spend on traditional media around the US election, most of which is TV, will rise 7.9% and account for 71.9% of all spend, reports Reuters.

Publisher strategies: walking a tightrope

What does all this mean for publishers? On the positive: huge ad spend, which the industry desperately needs after several lacklustre quarters and widespread media layoffs. With that said, the landscape is increasingly polarised, and publishers risk alienating large audience groups when they run political ads. 

But for many publishers, political advertising is too profitable to ignore. Spotify halted political advertising back in 2020, citing misinformation and a lack of “robustness” in their systems. But in 2024, Spotify accepts political advertisements across music, their Audience Network, and original and licensed podcasts (in certain markets). Something else has changed since 2020: streaming TV has shifted towards advertising. Hulu, for example, began allowing political ads in 2022.

In closing: 2024 promises a significant surge in ad spend driven by high-stakes elections across the world. Digital platforms, especially CTV, are set to see explosive growth, while traditional media remains vital for reaching older, high-turnout voters. Publishers stand to benefit from increased ad revenue, but must navigate the risks of polarisation and audience alienation. The landscape is complex, but with strategic planning and adaptation, publishers are likely to see strong returns and a light on the horizon after several tough quarters. 

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