If there is one guaranteed winner in the 2016 White House race, it's the TV Everywhere bottom line. Donald Trump's entrance into the race alone has already meant millions of dollars into network coffers. Look at CNN, which sold out commercial time in the second GOP debate at between $150,000 to $250,000 a spot.
Still, that's Trump chump change compared to the $4.5 billion to $5 billion that candidates are expected to spend in hard-fought primaries and the general election to win the highest office in the land. The Donald has provided a summer bonanza for news outlets like Fox News and CNN, but ultimately the tsuanmi-haired billionaire may not add substantially to the industry's bottom line, whether linear or over-the-top TV. A master of free media, Trump has said he won't be buying much advertising time anywhere.
Contrast that approach with a face-off between more conventional candidates like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. Should she get the nomination, Hillary is looking to raise in excess of $2 billion, and take a comprehensive multiplatform approach to market her run. Expect Jeb Bush, should he get the nod, to raise that much and even more. While the Supreme Court's “Citizens United” decision — which opened the floodgates for billionaires and corporations to rain cash on candidates — may be awful for democracy, it's been a bonanza for the media industry.
Save Trump going all the way, both Democrats and Republicans are expected to take full advantage of targeted marketing tools available. The lion's share of that money will go to traditional media outlets, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into broadcast and cable TV. According to one estimate, north of $3 billion will go to local broadcast, with about $800 million going to cable.
But a record amount is headed to digital outlets. In 2012, about 5% of the estimated $3.8 billion spent on political ads went to digital. According to the media savants I've been talking to, conservatively that percentage will at least triple to 15%, and could end up as high as 25% by election day 2016.
“Digital, programmatic, over-the-top, is the next big thing in this election cycle,” says Michael Beach, co-founder of Targeted Victory, a leading GOP-focused media buying firm. “We now have so many more tools to be so much more efficient and to scale, that didn't exist to nearly this degree the last time around.”
The big uptick in digital from the 2012 presidential race is partly due to the plethora of programmatic means to target voters with drone-like accuracy — which simply did not exist four years ago. Targeted Victory's Beach notes that, looking at all races, the amount of money spent on hyper-targeted outreach via mobile grew from 2.5% in 2012 to 34% in 2014.
From YouTube to Facebook to Snapchat, there's myriad ways to directly reach potential voters who have tuned out from legacy media, as well as reinforce the spots on the living room 42-inch or in the car on all-news radio. Mobile will also be a huge factor in driving a big increase in dollars to digital.
As Jim Walsh -- CEO of Democratic-focused digital advertising firm DS Political -- says, both the GOP and Dems know this is the age of “voter direct,” and are primed to use all the tools at their disposal with laser-like efficiency.