Connected TV Political Ad Spend Soars

This year’s midterm elections marked the beginning of the OTT campaign cycle, as campaigns poured resources into political ads on OTT and connected TV devices for the first time in a major way.

In August, the SSP Telaria reported that 30% of all political ad spend on its platform was spent on CTV, up from 1% in 2016.

However, in an update, Telaria says CTV political ad spending peaked in September, when 37% of spend was on CTV, decreasing to 25% in the days leading up to Election Day.

This suggests that campaigns may have shifted their budgets as Election Day drew closer, although the data doesn’t show whether those dollars shifted to social media, traditional linear television, or some other platform.

Furthermore, the data showed that the share of spend on deals, such as those bought through a private marketplace, peaked in September at 60%, whereas that trend reversed in October, with 60% of the spend going to open auction. That is consistent with September spend being pre-planned, shifting to last-minute buys.

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Telaria’s data also found that CPMs for political advertisers during the campaign were, on average, about 5% higher than what was observed for other advertisers.

“In the very last days before the election, the actual bid price of political advertisers was up to 80% higher than other advertisers,” the company says. 

CTV and OTT offer more precise targeting, which is useful for candidates seeking to reach demographics likely to vote, or in very specific geographic areas. This in turn could mean higher CPMs. Of course, traditional TV offers sheer broad reach, which some campaigns may still value as delivering a better ROI in the last days ahead of an election.

Indeed, a number of broadcast TV executives on recent earnings calls suggested that political advertising on linear TV was accelerating during the month of October, leading up to election day.

“Political is taking up all of the inventory,” CBS acting CEO Joe Ianniello told analysts on the company’s earnings call last week. “It's just a massive demand that's really pushing others around the edges and stuff. But it's going to be a hell of a year for local political advertising.”

“Political is way up. We're having a very, very strong political [year],” NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke told analysts on the Comcast earnings call, on Oct. 25. “It looks more like a presidential year than a midterm year.”

Despite the early peak, the data from Telaria suggests that CTV and OTT will be a big part of political ad spending going forward, particularly with consumer adoption continuing to rise at an accelerating pace and better targeting capabilities added regularly.

With political ad spend going from 1% in 2016 to 30% in 2018, 2020 is already shaping up to be a monster year for CTV and OTT political advertising.

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