The rise of online political ad spending in three charts

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson after a campaign that played out online.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson after a campaign that played out online.
Image: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Election advertising is increasingly moving online, faster in some places than in others.

Take the UK—in the recent election, the parties really battled it out online, spending lavishly on YouTube and Facebook ads. According to UK electoral authorities, in 2017 online ad spending made up 43% of total ad spending by political campaigners, rising from less than 2% in 2014. In the US, digital budgets are also rising, with Donald Trump’s campaign a big spender, but other candidates still fall quite far behind both their UK counterparts and the US president.

In the UK, the rise in political advertising has been quite rapid and makes up a large chunk of ad budgets:

During the 2016 US presidential campaign, according to consulting firm Kantar, the Trump camp spent more than 40% of its ad budget on online ads, the Sanders campaign spent 25%, while the Clinton campaign spent 6%. (For 2018 Senate campaigns, according to the organization Tech For Campaigns, which helps progressive and centrist candidates, the online share was also in single digits).

The firm’s estimates for 2020 show that overall, federal candidates will devote about 20% of their war chests, or about $1.2 billion, to ads on Facebook, Google, and other platforms. Television ads still win out.

Another study, from Advertising Analytics and Cross Screen Media, which includes projections for a larger number of campaigns, says that between 2018 and 2020, political spending on digital video ads in the US will grow 57%.