A new report from Centro aggregates digital ad spending data from the 2018 midterm election cycle, and reveals a significant use of programmatic advertising. According to data aggregated from 300+ federal, state and local races run using Centro’s Basis platform, programmatic buying comprised 60% of political digital ad budgets. The findings also show that video advertising made up 56% of media spend from these campaigns, and 53% of all budgets were spent in the last five weeks leading up to Election Day. 

“Political advertisers are making a shift to more audience-first buying tactics. We expect that trend to continue with more campaigns utilizing programmatic buying tactics such as in connected TV advertising, as the lines between linear TV and digital continue to blur,” Grace Briscoe, VP of Candidates and Causes, tells Cynopsis. “Voter viewership continues to fragment – including across cord-cutters, cord-shavers, and cord-nevers, each with their own distinct consumption patterns. Campaigns need to understand these trends, and the targeting efficiencies and opportunities they will present in 2020.”

Some highlights:

  • “Hyperlocal” programmatic tactics were used by more than 55% of election-related campaigns.
  • The programmatic impression-to-spend ratio (the dollar multiple) on connected TV ads is much higher than other devices, because of premium CPMs in this format.
  • Publisher and vendor standouts for direct selling are familiar brands in social media, video and audio. But the next tier of vendors utilized includes many popular news brands. 
  • Last minute spending is significant: 53% of 2018 political dollars were delivered in the last five weeks before Election Day, and 21% of ad dollars were spent in the final 10 days.

To assemble the report, Centro aggregated digital advertising data facilitated through our platform. The technology was used to manage ad buying for election efforts in the U.S. across display, video, native, search and social media. Among these candidates and ballot measures, 73% of them won in the general election.

Lynn Leahey