The Impact of 2020 Election Year on Paid Media and Performance Marketing

The Impact of 2020 Election Year on Paid Media and Performance Marketing

According to an estimate from the Center for Responsive Politics, new political election spending projections for 2020 will now hit $10.8 billion – 50% higher than the 2016 presidential election....

According to an estimate from the Center for Responsive Politics, new political election spending projections for 2020 will now hit $10.8 billion – 50% higher than the 2016 presidential election. According to the group, the 50% increase over the $6.5 billion total in 2016 would be another political advertising election record.

Google alone has seen $620,249,000 in total political ad spend since May 2018, as shown in its transparency report.

According to Wesleyan Media Project (in conjunction with the Center for Responsive Politics), since mid-April, the Biden campaign has spent $101.8 million across Facebook and Google, while the Trump campaign has spent $135.2 million. So far, a cumulative $2.19 billion has been spent during the 2020 cycle.

Political campaigns are relying on digital ads in 2020 far more than they ever have before. As a result, many advertisers are seeing a rise in CPMs and CPAs over the past few months due to the increased competition.

Here are a few tips by our performance marketing experts to help you navigate and weather the election time:

  • Review your CPM and CPA by states. You may want to pause ads in swing states that typically see heavy ad spend before and during elections. In 2020 the primary swing states are Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. We can see disproportionate spending on these states on Google’s transparency report.

  • Focus on your high-value audiences. The broader your audience is, the more likely you will be competing for users’ news feed inventories come election time. Identify which audiences yield the most significant return and cut the excess during election time. For example, if your campaigns rely heavily on prospecting audiences, consider doubling down on high-value audiences such as retargeting or any other first-party customer lists. Consider layering on audience targeting to refine your audience size.
  • Double down on email or SMS. Instead of paying more to reach the same audience, keep your current customers and leads engaged with a robust email strategy with tailored content. Email and SMS can be a great way to reach your audience with more personalized messaging, and it has a better chance of being noticed in their inbox or phones versus their crowded social news feeds.
  • Get creative with ad creative! An excellent creative always wins attention and performs, political or not. A good creative that drives engagement will decrease your CPM and CPA, which will help make up for the increased costs from the influx of political campaign money into the ad auctions. Review your creative library, make sure to run your winning creative, and continue to experiment with new creatives to get to a CPM and CPA that makes sense for your business.
  • Having a diversified performance strategy is key to weathering an election year’s impact on your ad buying economics. Consider moving budget to platforms that don’t allow political ads during this time of year. Here is a breakdown of ad platforms and their stance on political ads.


Mostafa ElBermawy
Mostafa is a seasoned performance and growth lead with over 13 years of experience leading and advising growth teams of various VC-backed startups, venture funds, and fortune 500 brands including Microsoft, Startupbootcamp, American Express, and P&G. Mostafa has written for industry publications such as Wired and Business Insider and is a regular tech contributor for the BBC and France24. When he's not at work, you can find him playing soccer, experimenting with new recipes, or roaming Brooklyn on a Citi-Bike.


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