TV & Streaming

Political ad spending on connected TV is 5x what it was in 2020

“2022 really is the first time that all of the stars have aligned,” one political ad buyer said of the shift.
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Illustration: Dianna “Mick” McDougall, Photo: OsakaWayne Studios/Getty Images

· 5 min read

We’re still weeks ahead of the midterm elections, but one media platform has already been declared a winner: connected TV.

As voters (and, well, everyone else) shift their attention away from linear television, CTV platforms are becoming crucial for campaigns looking to reach audiences in the tight windows between primaries and Election Day.

Media buyers who spoke to Marketing Brew said they’ve seen CTV spending nearly quintuple compared to the 2020 election cycle.

“Campaigns are asking for it, and media consultants and media buyers are asking for it,” said Mark Jablonowski, managing partner and chief technology officer of DSPolitical, a digital advertising firm that works with Democratic and progressive candidates. “This [space] has just seen tremendous growth from two years ago.”


This midterm season, investment in CTV and over-the-top platforms is expected to reach $1.4 billion, according to a September estimate from Kantar Media.

That’s more than digital platforms like Facebook and Google, and nearly as much as the amount campaigns are expected to spend on cable and satellite TV; overall, it accounts for about 15% of all advertising dollars projected to be spent in the lead-up to the midterms, which is slated to reach $9 billion this fall, Kantar estimated.

There are a few likely reasons for the surge in CTV spending. One of them is simple: political campaigns follow audiences where they are.

“That’s where the viewers are going,” said Frost Prioleau, CEO and co-founder of, a programmatic demand-side platform that helps advertisers purchase local and regional digital inventory, including CTV, and enable advertisers to target audiences with methods including geofenced congressional districts.

CTV has also finally reached the scale and sophistication for campaigns to take advantage of it more fully, buyers said. Two years ago, DSPolitical was only able to use CTV inventory to target voting habits at the zipcode level, Jablonowski said. This cycle, DSPolitical can target individual households based on the voting habits of that household.

This year, 20% of DSPolitical’s revenue came from CTV, and 20% of the firm’s ad spend is on CTV inventory.

“2022 really is the first time that all of the stars have aligned and there is the inventory,” Jablonowski said.

Flood the zone

Many campaigns face the challenge of reaching enough potential voters enough times to hopefully influence their behavior in the voting booth. As linear TV viewership has declined, so too have the opportunities to reach the audiences they seek with the frequency required to potentially “move people,” explained Lara Aulestia, founder and CEO of the firm 1060 Advisors, which helps political campaigns buy media.

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“You get half the reach as you did five years ago,” Aulestia said.

Because video is often seen as the most persuasive messaging tool for political ads, campaigns are seeking a suitable replacement, Aulestia said. CTV buys can help campaigns with reach and frequency, especially among younger audiences. This cycle, Aulestia has recommended clients earmark between 30% and 40% of their budgets to spend on CTV.

In the lead-up to Election Day, campaigns also want to make sure they have made as many inroads as possible. CTV platforms, which are often  plugged into multiple demand-side platforms and can be bought programmatically through multiple channels, can help campaigns flood the zone.

“When you’re trying to convince someone to pay attention to your candidate, when they’re going to go and vote in a week or two, you have such a short window of time to make an impact,” Jablonowski said. “We’re able to have so many different paths into a specific audience that we’re able to get that frequency that you really need.”

Growing pains

While the shift to CTV is an inevitability, it comes with challenges. The same headaches around transparency and measurement that have long been the concern of brand marketers are now frustrating political advertisers.

“In TV, you know what time your ad is airing, what program it’s airing in, it’s transparent to the opposition because the schedules are posted,” Aulestia explained. With the shift to CTV, those details are not so easy to glean, and campaigns may “feel they’re not getting insights” into everything from where and how often their ads are running to pricing and fee structures, Aulestia said.

Those transparency concerns can also extend to the rates of the inventory political advertisers are able to purchase.

“With broadcast television, you have a political rate card and all campaigns have to have access to the same rate card,” said Jablonowski, who has advocated for more oversight and transparency around political ad spending.“In the digital world, or the CTV world, it’s an auction. It’s a real-time bidding environment.”

Regardless, buyers expect investment to keep rising in election years. “During the even years, we expect that bump to continue to increase,” Prioleau said.

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