Political Ad Spending Reports Share Only Part Of Story

As the 2020 Presidential election ramps up, I’ve been reading a number of political ad reports circulating in our industry and have noticed a clear blind spot in many. Most are predicting that there will be billions of dollars spent on political advertising, but that those ad dollars are directed to online, TV and radio.  There is more to this story.

Many of the reports fail to provide a complete picture of political advertising spend and often fail to mention other vital channels -- like print, OOH and direct mail -- known to receive large volumes of political spending.

Borrell Associates, a research and consulting firm that tracks local advertising, reported $9.8 billion in political ad spend during the 2016 election cycle, attributing 3.5% of that spend to OOH.



Newspapers and magazines had 8.1%. Direct mail had 3.1%. And another 6.2% went to telemarketing. These may not be the heavyweights in the campaign process, but they are vital media channels that should be included in political advertising reports.

According to MRI-Simmons, those who voted in the last presidential election are 15% more likely than those who didn’t vote to say they have noticed any OOH advertising in the last 30 days. They are also 23% more likely to say they have noticed a billboard and 14% more likely to say they avoid watching TV commercials.

The 2016 election saw a shift in focus to data-driven advertising, with huge investments being made in targeted ads. Thanks to the digitalization of OOH, this legacy medium is now able to help presidential hopefuls make data-informed decisions, akin to digital, that enable political dollars reach their desired audiences.

For example, according to our data, roadside inventory delivers 42 billion impressions every week to people who say they always vote in the presidential elections. OOH buyers now have access to anonymized information on party affiliation, frequency of voting, and even which audiences have contributed money to a political campaign.

OOH buyers can now access granular data about important areas of interest for presidential candidates. Arizona, for instance, is going to be a really important state in the upcoming election. In the Phoenix DMA, there are more than 1400 roadside OOH advertising opportunities that overindex in reaching Independent voters.

OOH data provides some interesting insights about roadside advertising inventory measured in the city of Los Angeles, the location of the sixth televised Democratic debate this week.

Roadside advertising in Los Angeles reaches an audience that is 15% more likely to be a Republican than the total population of the Los Angeles DMA. Approximately 37% of the audience reached by the OOH in that city consider themselves to be a Democrat.

The Los Angeles audience is, interestingly, 5% more likely than the total population of the Los Angeles, DMA to say they never vote in the presidential elections, and 7% less likely to say they always vote in presidential elections.

Although political spending reports are often highly focused on digital, television and radio, the landscape is much more complex and given the radical improvements in the data-driven capabilities of media like OOH, there is no better time for Presidential hopefuls to include OOH in their marketing mix.

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