Who will you be voting for next year? The November 2016 elections may seem like a long ways away, but for the world of politics, campaigning to become the next United States President is well underway. As Election Day begins to creep closer, we can expect to see the usual campaign ads come across our televisions and radios, but this election could prove to have the biggest political presence on the digital environment.

Each year the amount of money candidates devote to political ads goes up. A recent study by the research firm Borrell Associates explains that political ad spending will reach a record high of $11.4 billion for the 2016 election. However, what’s more interesting is where these candidates are beginning to funnel their ad budgets.

Moving to Online Ads

Not only will this election mark the most expensive political ad spending ever, but also a record amount of money will be devoted to digital media ads. The Borrell study predicts that for the first time, over $1 billion will be spent by candidates on digital advertising. Compared to the 2008 election, the 2016 digital media spend is a 5,000% increase from the $22.25 million budget of the 2008 candidates. Nearly half of the 2016 campaign’s digital media budget will be allocated to targeting specific social media sites.

The Borrell study provides a look at the possible future of political campaigns if this trend continues. The 2020 presidential election could see an explosion of funding for digital media with a predicted budget of $3.3 billion.

But don’t worry, the television campaign ads we all know and love are far from extinct. With $8.5 billion going to television broadcasts, we can look forward to seeing ads on every station, every channel, and on every commercial break just like always. In fact, even with this election’s massive push for digital advertising, the political world is still far behind the private industries digital participation.

Why the Hesitation?

The majority of today’s industries allocate 30-50% of their money toward digital media ad spending. As the Borrell report notes, $1 billion is still only 9.5% of their advertising budget. This begs the question, why are political candidates hanging on to traditional media when the rest of the world is taking full advantage of tools digital advertising offers?

Adexchanger spoke with Peter Pasi, a GOP media strategist and VP of political sales at Collective, who explained why candidates are holding on to advertising with traditional media.

Digital Advertising= Precision

Using digital ads gives candidates the ability to target individuals who are most likely to engage with their political views. However, Pasi explains that one of the main areas of focus for candidates is name recognition, and television ads act as a blanket to cover a more general audience.

Lack of Research

A massive amount of time and research has gone into investigating the ROI of industries involved with digital advertising. And while digital advertising has proven to be incredibly beneficial for industries selling services or products, political candidates look to gain votes. Quantifiable research has yet to be analyzed on the persuasion of digital ads on voters.

Television is a “Safe Bet”

President Ronald Reagan won the hearts of American’s during his re-election campaign with his famous, “It’s morning in America,” ads. Today’s candidates are slow to move away from something that has been proven to work. Rocket Fuel’s politics and advocacy director JC Medici predicts it will be at least one or two election cycles before political marketers become completely comfortable with digital.

Looking Forward

Just as the world of digital advertising is continuously changing, political marketers are constantly looking for new and better ways to edge out their opponents. Digital ads will be a much larger part of the 2016 presidential election than they have been in the past, but they still have a long way to go before political marketers turn away from traditional media.

Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter!
Click Here to Subscribe