April 17, 2020
COVID-19 has forced much of American life online, which poses the question of if political advertising has shifted in focus towards advertising trends and digital platforms during the crisis. There were a couple of major trends in digital advertising spending in March.
Advertising Trends Data
First, we saw drastic drops in spending last month. It’s hard to directly tie this decrease to coronavirus since many presidential primaries concluded early in the month (i.e Super Tuesday on March 3), but the impact of coronavirus seems more evident later in the month as remaining primaries were postponed and total spending fell below the $10M mark.
Second, we saw a big uptick in the percentage of spending allocated to digital platforms. Early in the month, the percentage of spending allocated towards digital ads remained relatively steady in the 20-30% range, but in later March, spending on digital ads moved closer to a 40-50% share of political spending tracked. This shift follows the general coronavirus timeline. President Trump declared the coronavirus a national emergency on March 13th, and the weighting shifts around the same time. The below graph shows both the decrease in overall spending and the shift in share between traditional and digital advertising (where traditional is dark grey and digital is light grey).
The preference towards digital advertising can be explained by the fact that digital platforms allow advertisers to specifically target who receives their message, meaning an advertiser can serve ads to only their base or those who are likely to sympathize with a specific message. It stands to reason that potential voters are stuck at home so the amount of time spent online has increased, and thus the effectiveness of digital advertising should also rise. We will keep a close eye on how social distancing continues to impact trends in digital advertising.