The New Digital and Social Media Regime in Political Advertising

Digital and Social in Political Advertising
The explosion of digital and social media over the last few years has groomed these online channels to win over the 2016 election. This has caused a significant shift in political ad spending and forced it away from more traditional channels, especially TV, which for decades has claimed the majority of political advertising. As a result, the way that candidates now leverage digital and social media may ultimately determine the outcome of the election. For an in-depth look at how digital and social media are blazing a trail down the campaign trail, here’s our insight on how these online channels have become the most powerful in political advertising.

Americans Swayed Away from TV Ads
Television is no longer in control of political advertising. Viewers are starting to tune out political TV ads, which has made TV less effective at reaching and impacting audiences. Today, these former TV viewers are giving much more of their time and attention to digital and social media. This has made these online channels into more valuable and viable vehicles for political ads and messages. Yet despite TV’s decline, reported that 70% of political ad spend continues to go toward TV. It appears that TV’s staying power is largely due to competing campaigns continuing to spend millions of dollars on TV ads, which has led candidates to remain on TV because they fear losing any advantage that TV gives to their opponents.

Digital is Winning Over Candidates
The average American adult is consuming more than five and a half hours of digital media each day, according to a recent Internet Trends report in This is a 30% rise from the average digital consumption in 2012. With Americans more glued to the screens on their digital devices than their TV sets, it simply makes sense that political ad spend would follow this lead and veer in a digital direction.

According to, 2016 will be the first election where candidates spend a great deal of money on digital ads. Recent research from Borrell Associates showed that digital-ad spending will reach new heights to hit a record $1 billion in the 2016 election. Compare that to prior elections where only $22 million of the total $6.2 billion spent on advertising was directed toward digital ads.

Amidst all of this digital spending, programmatic ad techniques are taking center stage. even reported that candidates are now using the same advanced programmatic ad techniques as many major brands. This programmatic ability ensures that messages reach specific audience segments easily and affordably, which allows candidates to create personal connections with their most valuable constituents.

Social Media is a Leading Digital Channel
Which digital channels are candidates electing to use? Media experts agree that a majority of political ad spending is being placed on social media, particularly Facebook, which is expected to receive around $350 million in political advertising this election. While Facebook appeals to all demographics and offers extensive reach, candidates are also concerned about reaching Millennials. These young adults aged 18 to 34 are the new prime generation of voters, and are on the verge of surpassing Baby Boomers in both size and power. And one of the best ways to reach Millennials is through the social media platform Snapchat, which has become extremely popular with the Millennial market.

But it’s not enough for candidates to simply start social media accounts and occasionally post updates. They need to continually create fresh, original content to attract interest, followers, and votes. They also need to post a more diversified range of content, from the latest news articles and personal photos from the campaign trail, to professional video and interactive quizzes. According to, many candidates ensure that they have a strong and steady social presence by assembling a social media team to monitor and maintain their pages. But the extra effort is completely worth it since social media ads and messages influence so many people.

Interestingly, the relationship between candidates and social media is actually reciprocal. Candidates are increasingly favoring social media to display their ads and messages. At the same time, leading social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Google are working to woo political candidates.

For instance, Facebook has assembled a dedicated team to consult with candidates and give guidance about the platform’s many advertising formats and services. And Snapchat has designed special filters and 10-second video ads that are ideal for political candidates. Plus, Google has proven its political power with its YouTube video ads, sponsored search links, and the new programmatic display ads that offer highly targeted audience reach on leading digital publishing websites.

Beyond the social platforms themselves, a number of social media agencies and consultants are striving to draw political candidates. revealed that these experts are offering strong social media strategies, along with advanced analytics tools and social data metrics to help candidates better target their political ads and audiences.

In 2016, candidates finally realize the enormous value of social media for the extraordinary reach, exposure, and personal connection it offers. And social media platforms now fully understand the huge financial rewards of winning over the candidates.

Digital Search Ranks Even Higher in Ad Spending
While social media is one of the leading ad platforms for political ads, an even larger amount of the digital ad spend is going toward search. According to media experts, the greatest amount of ad spend in 2016 will be on Alphabet, which is home to Google’s search business and its subsidiary organizations. Research shows that political ad spend will reach a whopping $400 million in the 2016 election.

Online Video Also Earns a Share of the Digital Vote
Since the 2012 election, online video has exploded and become much stronger, better, and more popular. Online video viewing is responsible for a large amount of the time that people spend online. Digital video has given advertisers many more opportunities to reach people, with the same types of motion, sight, and sound that make TV so effective. Video also provides advertisers with maximum message exposure and widespread viewability.

Mobile Moves Up in Politics
In recent years, mobile advertising has risen to attention as mobile devices monopolize people’s lives. In 2016, mobile will surpass desktop in ad spend according to eMarketer’s predictions. And reports that mobile is particularly useful for reaching coveted Millennials, who are virtually always connected to their mobile devices.

TV Still Maintains Some Political Power
While digital is the new golden boy in political advertising, TV will remain a popular candidate, just to a lesser degree. predicted that TV will simply be used mostly for local political ads, rather than used as the national platform it’s been in the past. And while people may spend more time on a variety of digital channels, they’ll continue to spend time watching TV, especially older target audiences. So, while TV will still maintain political power to an extent, digital is poised to dominate the 2016 election.

Keep up with the changes in political advertising. Contact MDG.

MDG, a full-service advertising agency with offices in Boca Raton and New York, NY, is one of Florida’s top branding firms. MDG’s capabilities include print advertising, direct mail marketing, branding, logo design, creative, media buying and planning, radio and TV advertising, outdoor, newspaper, digital marketing, website design and development, online video advertising, infographic development, email marketing, video marketing, mobile marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, paid search marketing, and SEO. To learn about the latest trends in advertising and branding, contact MDG.