Targeted Media Boosts Share of Political Pie

It was a record year for political ad spending, according to ad trackers at Borrell Associates, up 4.6% from the 2012 presidential election to $9.8 billion, but money is shifting toward more targeted ads, with cable in on the new bounty.

Broadcast TV remained the big dog at $4.4 billion, more than three times any other outlet. Borrell pointed out that represented a 44.7% share, down from 57.9% in 2012, a $1 billion decline when many were predicting a $1 billion increase.

Part of that was President-elect Donald Trump's heavy reliance on earned media and digital media, but it was also because of the general shift to more targeted media.

Cable, digital and direct mail gained a total $1.7 billion over 2012.

Cable jumped from $891.78 million in 2012 (9.5% of the total pie) to $1,355.28 billion (13.8%), Borrell pointed out in a new report released this week.

Online and digital exploded from $159.21 million in 2012 to 1,415.38 billion in 2016.

When the dust settled on Trump's improbable victory, what remained was "a political advertising landscape that has been permanently altered," said the analysts. "In 2016 marketers learned that a candidate doesn’t have to match or outspend an opponent in TV commercials – or even in overall funds raised – to win an election. That single revelation has changed a decades-old trajectory where political advertising has spiraled upward, with broadcast TV outlets being the primary beneficiary."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.