Socium Media Makes Inc. 5000 List - Fastest Growing Private Companies in America
Socium Media Ranks on Adweek's 75 Fastest Growing Agencies List
Socium Media Named By Inc. Magazine as Best Workplace & Company On The Rise (2021 & 2022)
Socium Media Recognized in Fortune's Best Workplaces in Advertising & Marketing List
Socium Media is Great Place to Work Certified™

As we edge closer to the election season, the advertising landscape is bracing for an unprecedented influx of competition, with billions of dollars in ad spend set to flood the market.  According to a recent study from Axios, ad spend is estimated to increase by 31.2% compared to 2020, signifying not just heightened competition but also rising ad costs amid a turbulent socioeconomic environment.

 (image source: Axios)

This uptick in spending introduces challenges, particularly in Paid Social advertising on Facebook and Instagram, where new policies and review processes are scrutinizing ads referencing social issues, elections, and politics more than ever before.


Advertising Spend Is Rising

With the influx of new spend and heightened competition, adopting a strategic and flexible approach for advertisers is paramount. RetailMeNot reports that 90% of retailers are adjusting their marketing because of the upcoming election, with political ad spend projected to hit $10B in 2024. Of this $10B in ad spend, it is estimated that:

  • Presidential election campaigns will account for $2.8B of spend
  • Senate campaigns will account for $2.1B of spend
  • House campaigns will account for $1.7B of spend
  • Gubernatorial election campaigns will account for $361M of spend
  • Other election campaigns will account for $3.3B of ad spend

This increased ad spend and overall competition underscores the necessity for advertisers to prepare for ad costs to skyrocket, especially in the weeks preceding November. Most political ad spend starts in the weeks leading up to November, which causes ad costs to skyrocket during this time. Similar to the holiday season/Q4, anticipate spiked CPMs and CPCs.

Brand Muscle states advertisers should plan for a 15-50% increase in CPMs for CTV and CPMs and CPC for paid social during the core six weeks of the election (September 15–November 5) and several other key dates throughout the year in key battleground states.

The following dates (and the days leading up to each) will most likely have more political spend added to the auction—increasing overall competition and costs:

  • March 5: Super Tuesday
  • July 15–18: The Republican National Convention
  • August 19–22: The Democratic National Convention
  • September 16: The first presidential debate
  • September 25: The vice presidential debate
  • October 1: The second presidential debate
  • October 9: The third presidential debate
  • November 5: Election day

During these timeframes, higher CPMs mean you will need to spend more budget to hit the same orders and revenue as you did in 2023, so prepare budget allocations and forecasts with these spikes in mind.


Consumer Behavior Is Shifting, Too

Alongside increasing ad spend, a notable shift in consumer behavior and sentiment is anticipated, significantly influenced by the economic narratives championed by presidential candidates. According to Axios, retail experts predict the economic messaging of this year’s campaigns may significantly impact consumer spending habits, as the policies and promises of White House contenders mold Americans’ perceptions of the economy. Sentiment around the current economy is negative at this time, with U.S. consumers viewing it as “weak.” Despite an upswing of confidence in December, overall consumer confidence levels remained below pre-pandemic highs in 2023. 

Some data points to an expected slow in consumer spending or pause during the week of the presidential election. However, the most significant changes are likely to come following the election, as a change in leadership could lead to altered tax policy. This could lead to a lag or an uptick in ad spend following the election, contingent on the expected impact on the individual consumer.


Ways to Adapt Your Strategy Accordingly

Recalibrate Your Messaging

For advertisers, understanding and responding to these shifts is paramount. Recalibrating messaging strategies to resonate with the economic concerns that might be top of mind for consumers post-election could prove to be highly beneficial.

By emphasizing themes of convenience, affordability, and long-term value, brands have the chance to meet the needs of their audience where they are. Here are a few examples of messaging that could be particularly effective should they align with brand values and offerings, emphasizing cost savings and value: 

  • Promote Immediate Savings: Highlight special offers such as “Don’t miss out on savings with X% off first orders” to capture interest with upfront savings.
  • Subscription Discounts: Encourage long-term engagement with messages like “Save X% when you subscribe today,” showcasing savings and commitment.
  • Acknowledge Current Economic Pressures: Use empathetic messaging that resonates with the audience’s financial concerns, such as, “We know things are expensive right now…”
  • Highlight Durability and Long-Term Value: Emphasize the long-term benefits of purchases with messages like, “Buy quality that will last for a lifetime.”
  • Price sensitivity: Steer clear of terms such as “luxury” or “high-end” to avoid deterring cost-conscious consumers. Instead, focus on value and quality to maintain appeal without emphasizing cost.

Plan Ahead 

Having a proactive approach to ad spending, content scheduling, and channel selection well before the political frenzy will be crucial. Below are key strategies to help maintain visibility and effectiveness while managing costs and maximizing returns during these high-competition periods:

  • The majority of political ads flood into the weeks before November. To get around rising ad costs, ramp up spend ~2 months before (and after) the peak election period. By leaning heavily into prospecting and spending during less competitive timeframes, you will build more substantial retargeting pools to lean on during the holiday and political season (where spend should be most concentrated on warmer audiences to maximize cost-effectiveness).
  • As mid-October approaches, strategically reduce your spending, concentrating primarily on retargeting pools.  Spend should be lowest on November 3–4, as this is when competition is expected to be the highest for political ads. 
  • Adjust your organic and paid promotion content calendars to sidestep major election dates (especially November 3–4). This foresight will prevent campaigns from getting lost in the election noise, which will save budget and avoid brand safety risk.
  • Start testing into alternative/new paid media channels as early as possible—specifically, those that ban or deprioritize political spend. This will allow you to discover the most cost-efficient platforms before the height of election season advertising frenzy and provide a reliable channel to allocate ad spend if other major channels increase exponentially in costs.
  • Leverage cost caps/alt bidding strategies or automated rules to control spend based on CPAs close to the election days. This will lead to more efficient and effective spending, and will help ensure your target KPIs don’t take a dive based on demand and competition.

Be Ready to Adapt 

In an election year brimming with uncertainties, being nimble in strategic development and execution is paramount. A flexible approach is imperative to enhance the likelihood of success at more efficient costs compared to those who remain static in their strategy.

A few recommendations on how best to stay flexible include:

  • Allow budgets to stay fluid between channels. Sticking to set budgets limits the ability for quick shifts to more successful channels when needed (and can be a recipe for failure).
  • Reserve a portion of budget for heavy investment after November 5th, capitalizing on the period leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This timeframe offers a significant opportunity for capturing sales post-election.
  • Regularly review placement performance, directing budget towards the most effective areas. Usually, it’s best practice to allow the algorithm to deliver to all placements, but during a high competition timeframe, it’s helpful to eliminate areas where costs are spiking.

Find a Partner You Can Rely On

As a leading digital marketing agency, we’re always closely monitoring fluctuations in advertising costs and consumer sentiments, ensuring we’re ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. If you’re looking to work with a growth agency that brings certainty to an uncertain time, we’d love to chat!

But if you’re still managing campaigns manually, here are some additional platform resources and tips that will help during this busy election season.

Paid Media Platform Resources and Tips 

All Platforms 

Lean into channels that restrict or deprioritize political ads. This strategy ensures a safer environment for your brand’s ads and reduces the likelihood of association with political content. Key platforms to consider include:

  • Pinterest (note: this is a historically positive platform that deprioritizes negative content)
  • TikTok
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • Amazon

Be mindful that many other advertisers are likely to shift spend to these platforms as well, resulting in ad costs on these platforms being as high or close to platforms where political ads are permitted. For this reason, it’s important to adjust for this anticipated increase in costs due to higher competition in these channels during peak political dates this year.

These are the platforms where political advertising spend is anticipated to be high: 

  • Meta
  • DSPs
  • CTV
  • YouTube 

Paid Search + Display

  • Leverage the Transparency Reporting Tool to understand where the volume of spend for the election is being allocated.
  • Prepare for an uptick in CPCs, CPMs, and lower CTRs this year, especially for video content.
  • Be vigilant in monitoring targeting, exclusions, and placements for YouTube and Display ads especially during peak political periods.
  • While paid search is generally insulated from direct brand safety issues, anticipate higher CPCs as competition intensifies with advertisers reallocating budgets away from platforms heavily populated with political ads, such as Meta.

Paid Social

  • Expect costs to increase by at least 10%–20% for the weeks leading up to the election, and up to a 50% increase in battleground states for the same time period.
  • Adjust engagement-based targeting:
    • Ensure brands are prepared to monitor and handle organic commentary with community management guidelines.
    • Ensure that no engagement targeting or Lookalike/Actalike audience is built off of comments/messages to the page if there is an influx of political/negative commentary on paid or organic parts of the brands’ presence within the platform. Election periods often trigger changes in ad policies.

X and TikTok Ads

  • Political discussion varies greatly across paid social platforms. Collective Measures shares, “X (formerly known as Twitter) continues to be the primary host of election-based content with over 46.5 million posts shared in the past year, followed by Instagram (893K) and Reddit (38.5K). Sentiment varies depending on where the discussion is happening. While X is shrouded with negative sentiment, TikTok is trending to be a less negative discussion ground with 61% higher positive sentiment than other platforms.”
  • With the above understanding in mind and considering ad policy and tolerance across platforms, it is important to reconsider platform allocations accordingly.
  • Plan to diversify ad spend and push heavier into areas where CPMs are historically lower and more controlled – like influencer ads (TTCX for TikTok).

Meta Ads

  • Leverage the Meta Ads Library to view a breakdown of political ad spend by state.
  • If possible, try to minimize the volume of new ads launched between October 20–November 4 as Meta’s policy and review processes will be updated and at a higher caliber during this period. Inform your team of the stricter policy during this timeframe, and encourage pushing the majority of new ads live before this timeframe, if possible.
  • According to Apiary, advertisers must be prepared to work with “an extra-vigilant algorithm driving ad review decisions—and no doubt a swamped Facebook support team less likely to have the bandwidth to assist” during this timeframe.
  • Find additional information on the Meta approach to elections at this link to their Transparency Center.

Brand Safety 

Although all media platforms pose placement/brand safety risk, X (Twitter) has been a primary focal point of political conversation since the 2020 presidential election and now leading up to the 2024 election. X is expected to be one of the least brand-safe platforms for advertisers as we move closer to the election peak periods – and is a platform to consider decreasing or removing spend from entirely for the duration of the election period. 

 See the breakdown of brand safety risk by platform below based on the volume of past and anticipated political conversation from Collective Measures:

Nina Dans