Digital Media-Buying Data Reveals Surge In Direct, CTV Political Ad Buys

Among the post-analyses of the political advertising buys from the 2022 midterm elections is an analysis released this week by digital media-buying processing provider Basis Technologies that seems to contradict some of the conventional wisdom asserted to date, including a trend toward programmatic and social media buys.

The analysis, which is based on agencies and political campaigns utilizing Basis' systems to process political media buys in the 2018 and 2022 midterms, as well as the 2020 general presidential election, shows the percentage of programmatic buys fell to 52% in 2022 from 63% in 2020 and 60% in 2018.

Social, meanwhile, fell progressively from 23% in 2018 to just 10% in 2022.

That last stat is noteworthy, given the amount of discussion surrounding political campaigns' use of social media platforms -- especially TikTok -- but much of those efforts were not paid media buys but organic creator content, albeit from political parties and candidates' campaign teams.



The biggest increase, by a wide margin, was direct media-buys.

A big factor in that shift was a corresponding increase in the share of digital political ad buys going to CTV (connected TV), which the report's author, Basis Technologies Senior Vice President of Candidates and Causes Grace Biscoe, says is still is available primarily from direct buys vs. programmatic ones.

That probably makes sense given the propensity of political campaigns to utilize TV advertising -- but it also reveals that like TV, CTV still is more of a direct-buying infrastructure than a programmatic one.

"CTV ads [were] almost half of direct spending for 2022 political marketers," Briscoe writes in the reporting, noting: "This could be contributing to the decline in social advertising share over the past elections. However, the major social media ad vendors have also implemented restrictive policies for political advertising, in addition to having younger audiences (who are low-propensity voters)."

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