Election Cycle Trends: CPMs & CPCs

It was estimated that roughly 6.89 billion dollars was spent over the course of the 2020 presidential election on advertising " about 63.3% higher when compared to the 2016 election.

While this past election has been historic for a number of reasons, it has also set a precedent for the advertising community. In the midst of a global pandemic, a recession, and a polarizing political landscape, political advertising dominated the digital landscape.

Of the 7 billion dollars spent on federal campaigns, about 1.2 billion of this was spent on digital advertising. Not only does this signal a major shift away from spend on connected tv and programmatic advertising, it also points to the ever-increasing competition found on platforms like Facebook and Google.

A recent survey from the Pew Research Center found that 18% of Americans now get their news through social media. While this is lower than the users who receive news from websites and apps (25%), it is substantially more than those who get their news from cable (16%) and local television (16%).

In fact, since mid-April the Biden campaign has spent $101.8 million across Facebook and Google, while the Trump campaign has spent $135.2 million on digital. This data only reinforces the notion that more political campaigns are pivoting their ad spend to digital. But the question that’s on everyone’s mind is: how has this affected non-political advertising?

Ultimately, the 2020 election cycle became an exercise in breaking through the noise. With limited ad inventory and massive demand across the presidential, state, and local elections, CPMs rose drastically. Based on GeistM’s in-house data, we’ve aggregated CPM by vertical to estimate the change in CPMs pre and post-election.

It’s clear that if you are not bidding high enough then you simply won’t receive enough visibility. Advertisers may want to double or triple their base and max bids prior to the election and keep a close eye on CPMs the week after the election as they are likely to lower quickly. But be vigilant! Black Friday is right around the corner so CPMs are most likely set to increase gradually by the end of November.

But how do you cut through the noise and 'election-proof' your digital strategy? CPMs and CPCs remain impertinent when making the right decision, but there are other alternatives.

Use this time as an opportunity to diversify away from Facebook and expand your network mix by capitalizing on the high impression volume on native networks like Outbrain and Taboola. These networks serve ads on top news sites like MSN and CNN which will receive high levels of traffic during Election season and expand your brand’s reach to an untapped user-base. It’s also the perfect time to lean into direct buys or other flat-rate opportunities.

In addition to native networks, social networks like Tiktok and Pinterest are great options since they don’t even allow political ads. They are also still in earlier stages of advertising so you can be sure CRM aren’t as steep. Given the lack of competition from political campaigns and non-political advertisers, an election cycle is an ideal time to start testing on these platforms.

Twitter is particularly lucrative as it is a main new source during the election. Considering the increased user engagement, this can often work in a brand’s favor without overall rates being impacted too severely as Twitter also bans political advertising.

Now that the 2020 election cycle has wrapped up, one thing is clear. Political advertising will never be the same again. A fight that was once relegated to television and print media is now omnipresent in the digital world, and its effects are far-reaching. Advertising is always changing and this past election has reminded us why staying stagnant is often dangerous.

Learn more about how GeistM can scale your business!

Tell Your Story