Political Ad Spending to Reach Nearly $10 Billion for 2020 Election – But TV Dollars Will Decline

TV ad dollars totaled $65 billion this year, a 7% decline from 2018, media buying firm GroupM says

Political advertising spending is expected to total close to $9.8 billion for the 2020 election year, according to a new report by media buying firm GroupM.

That figure encompasses all forms of advertising, and would represent an increase of 63% increase from 2016 and a more modest 17% increase from the 2018 midterms. There are currently more than 20 democratic challengers vying to defeat incumbent president Donald Trump, with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg entering the race last week.

Bloomberg spent more than $30 million alone last week on TV ads as he entered the Democratic primary. The amount represented the most ad dollars ever spent by a political candidate in a single week, far outpacing the old record of $24 million by Barack Obama during the last week of his 2012 re-election campaign.

However, despite that big influx of political ad dollars coming next year, traditional TV will see declines from 2019, which was already down 7% from 2018 to $65 billion (when you exclude political advertising, which fell more sharply as 2019 was an off-cycle year, it’s down only 2%). That is lower than the $70.3 billion that eMarketer forecast last month, and would drop TV’s share of ad dollars to 26.4% in 2019.

“National TV advertising will be closer to zero, or even up very slightly, while local is down by low-single-digits,” GroupM’s Brian Weiser said in the report. “We expect this declining trend to persist, even with new forms of premium TV advertising regularly emerging.” TV’s drop comes as the larger U.S. advertising industry saw an increase in spending, it’s fourth straight year of growth, by 6.2% to $244 billion in 2019.

Despite the massive increase in ad dollars, TV advertising revenue is expected to decline by 1% in 2020. GroupM also doesn’t see the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo next summer as being that much of a factor — NBC garnered $1.2 billion in ad sales in 2016. “The 2020 Olympics also likely provide some marginal benefits,” Weiser continued. “Although we note that it can be difficult to identify the degree to which Olympic activity captures spending that would already have occurred or if it causes incremental spending to flow into the advertising market.”

By 2024, GroupM predicts TV ad dollars will fall to $60.3 billion, accounting for only 21.2% of the entire market. In that same time, pure-play internet companies will swallow up 60% of the market. GroupM also expects in the streaming era to become a boon for advertisers (we’ve already seen how streaming companies gave TV advertising a leg up this year).

“We expect the new and existing streaming video services to account for multiple billions of dollars in domestic advertising spending by the time these services are all operating at scale,” GroupM said.

GroupM is the media-buying firm of WPP, one of the “Big 4” advertising companies along with Omnicom, Interpublic and Publicis.

Tim Baysinger

Tim Baysinger

TV Reporter • tim.baysinger@thewrap.com • Twitter: @tim_bays



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