Every two years, political advertising descends upon the advertising landscape, gobbling up a significant amount of media inventory and bringing challenges for nonpolitical advertisers—challenges that only seem to intensify with each election cycle.  2024 could bring these challenges to an all new high.  A highly divisive Presidential race and hotly contested Senate races will likely drive unprecedented political ad spend.

To navigate the situation, non-political advertisers will need to study and evaluate a host of considerations.

Inventory Considerations

This year’s political ad spend is forecast to land between $10.2 billion and $12 billion—a 13%-to-30% increase from the 2019-2020 election cycle. For advertisers, this glut of money can bring higher CPMs—especially during certain time periods, in certain locations, and on certain channels. Inventory scarcity is another consideration, although there’s enough inventory out there that price will be most advertisers’ primary concern.

Timing Considerations

Political spending data from 2022 and 2020 show that about 50% of the year’s political dollars ran in the 30 days leading up to the election, with 25% running in the ten days leading up to Election Day. In 2024, expect to see political ads start a bit earlier as a result of early in-person and mail-in voting.

Location Considerations

Geography is the other major factor that will impact advertisers during this year’s election cycle. Political campaigns will heavily target certain swing states and counties, and ad rates and inventory will be much more affected in those areas than those that reliably vote blue or red.

For the presidential election, there are about seven states that will be hotly contested and see an increased proportion of presidential campaign ads: Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Inventory scarcity and higher CPMs will be pronounced in these states and their major cities.

Beyond the Presidential election, high volumes of political advertising are expected in cities like Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Reno, Pittsburgh, Missoula, Billings, Boston, Wilkes Barre-Scranton, Butte-Bozeman, Detroit, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Atlanta, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Harrisburg, DC, and Raleigh-Durham.

Channels Most Impacted by Political Advertising

Political advertisers love video, so the increased demand for advertising space across media will be felt most acutely on CTV, linear, online display video, and those social networks that accept political ad dollars. The impact on CTV will be especially pronounced with an estimated 45% of all digital political advertising in 2024 going to CTV, up 26% from the 2020 election cycle.

Additionally, advertising on linear television comes with the possibility of getting crowded out of ad slots. Because of the FCC’s Equal Time Rule, if a candidate wants to advertise and buy 60 seconds on a certain channel, that channel must offer other candidates a comparable amount of time and a comparable placement. This can end up bouncing other advertisers in situations where there is limited inventory, and while somewhat unusual, it is most likely to occur during the leadup to Election Day in competitive locations.

Prioritize Brand Safety

The election season poses multiple brand safety threats, manifesting in the form of possible adjacency to negative political content and/or to political disinformation and misinformation.

While negative political advertising has been around for a long time, the volume of election-related mis- and disinformation expected this year poses a newer challenge for advertisers. This kind of content was an issue in 2020, but experts expect it to be even more of a threat in 2024 because of the emergence of generative AI, which makes it easy for bad actors to generate huge amounts of false or misleading content.

Considering this environment, leaders will need to dial up their placement control, and there are a variety of ways to accomplish this. Advertisers can work with partners like ComScore, Oracle, and Peer39 to ensure their ads are shown in premium, non-divisive environments, and implement allow lists and block lists to avoid political and low-quality websites. Utilizing smart contextual targeting is another way to make sure messages only show up in desired environments, and investing in programmatic guaranteed and PMPs can further secure premium placement.

Wrapping Up

In what promises to be a tumultuous election year with record political ad spend, marketers who take a “business as usual” approach to their campaigns risk misallocating their spend, alienating potential customers, and taking major hits to brand perception. It’s essential that leaders plan their campaigns around how political advertising will impact the landscape—especially during the start of Q4.