As big a role as social media played in the 2016 elections, it doesn’t expect to eat into conventional TV advertising spending, according to year-end outlooks released this week by the leading ad industry forecasters.
Given the number of hotly contested races, the 2018 midterm elections are expected to set a new record in conventional U.S. ad spending.
In his year-end forecast at UBS’ annual Media Week conference in New York, Vincent Letang, executive vice president-global market intelligence at IPG Mediabrands’ Magna unit, noted, “Early indications are that political advertising will be strong in 2018 in a heated political climate.”
He is currently predicting U.S. political ad spending will expand 18% vs. a like-for-like 2014 midterm cycle, rising to $2.9 billion in 2018.
How that will be magnified by social media is anyone’s guess, but given the influence it had on the 2016 Presidential race, it’s likely that impact will be greater than any budgetary outlays. As Facebook, Google and Twitter have disclosed to Congress and the American public in recent months, Russia’s Internet Research Agency spend relatively little -- less than $1 million -- on paid social media amplification, but likely generated a significant ROI in terms of the ultimate outcome.
While the social media giants have put new safeguards in place, including larger workforces to screen and vet political advertising and social media pages, look for new, alternative, and likely innovative uses to be developed in 2018.
We’re already seeing evidence in the run-up to some 2017 races, especially Alabama’s Senate campaign between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones.
Among other things, has been the use of so-called “robo-callers” -- automated, unsolicited phone calls -- posing as Washington Post reporters offering to pay for tips and evidence of Moore’s underage sex scandals. The guerrilla media tactic was seen as an effort to discredit the Post’s and other news organizations’ reporting of the Moore allegations, and to sow disbelief among voters that he is the victim of a disinformation campaign.
The Post, of course, also broke a story last week about an attempt by Project Veritas to plant a fake story from a woman posing as a victim of Moore’s.