What the Digital Ad Industry Shifts Mean for 2024 Political Campaigns | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

What the Digital Ad Industry Shifts Mean for 2024 Political Campaigns


All eyes are on political campaigns going into 2024, with races at the local, state, and national levels expected to be tightly contested and more nuanced than ever. For political marketers, the tension of election season — particularly after the 2020 presidential race and 2022's midterms — is familiar territory. However, what's decidedly not familiar is the digital advertising reality in which this year's campaigns must operate.

To put it simply: A lot has changed since 2022, let alone 2020. If political advertisers aren't rewriting their playbooks in advance of making their 2024 media buys, and finding the right partners, they'll be risking some serious missteps and false starts in an environment where even the smallest stutter-step can cost an election.

Let's take a look at the macro industry forces that political marketers must acknowledge in their planning and buying this year.

The Loss of Identifiers Amid Growing Privacy Restrictions

In recent years, the landscape of digital advertising identifiers has undergone significant transformations driven by privacy concerns and evolving industry standards. The most notable change has been the gradual phasing out of third-party cookies, a process that will be largely completed this year as Google makes good on its promise to deprecate third-party cookies on Chrome. Likewise, Apple's introduction of its App Tracking Transparency (ATT) privacy framework, and its move to let iOS users opt out of tracking via its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), have had a profound impact on digital advertisers' ability to target (and retarget) audiences.

For political advertisers, it's important to acknowledge that targeting tactics of the past — even ones that were relevant as recently as 2023 — might not be viable for 2024 campaigns. The loss of third-party cookies and other identifiers has prompted advertisers to explore alternative methods for targeted advertising, including a deeper focus on first-party data, contextual targeting, and the adoption of more privacy-friendly universal ID solutions. Many brands and agencies have been prepping their day-to-day marketing machines for these shifts for years now, but most political advertisers won't have the luxury of time when it comes to stepping into the new world of identity. They'll need partners that can help them reach the right voters in a privacy-safe way, at scale, right out of the gate.

A Consolidated Buying Landscape

In addition to the loss of many once-relied-upon identifiers, political advertisers in 2024 will find that a growing number of platforms and digital environments have placed restrictions on political advertising going into 2024. For example, Google and Meta have cracked down on political ads on their properties in recent years, and Microsoft's Xandr has gotten out of the political advertising game altogether.

Many political campaigns have significant budgets to be allocated in a relatively short amount of time, with the goal of reaching the persuadable voters most likely to swing an election in their favor. While there are a lot of new no-go digital arenas for political advertisers in 2024, there are also more omnichannel opportunities for finding the right audiences than ever — if one knows where to look. That's why having access to the right partnerships — ones with direct relationships that can work across channels and publishers — will be crucial to campaign success this year.

An Evolved Omnichannel Landscape

Speaking of omnichannel campaigns, let's talk about what evolving audience behaviors mean for political campaigns this year. The shift in viewership from linear TV to streaming has been well-documented, but political ad spend hasn't necessarily kept pace in recent election cycles. In 2024, this could be a bigger challenge than ever.

To succeed this year, political media buyers need efficient tools to reach the right voters across devices and ad formats. Programmatic advertising is becoming crucial for this, helping campaigns connect with voters and audiences interested in politics to ultimately drive voter turnout.

By embracing programmatic, political campaigns can reach and geo-target voters in specific states, congressional districts, DMAs, ZIP codes, or other regional breakdowns. And with an omnichannel approach to programmatic — across connected TV, video, mobile, and display — they can make budgets go the extra mile with layers of efficiency and transparency. Recent consolidation and refinements among technology platforms (along with the larger industry embrace of supply path optimization) have given way to solutions that can stretch a campaign's media dollars further and expand reach with potential voters in brand-safe environments—all while supporting credible journalism.

In 2024, races will be tight, and more is riding on the targeted, efficient spending of advertising budgets than ever before. The political marketers that acknowledge recent digital landscape shifts during their campaign planning will be the ones that gain an edge among today's discerning voters.

John Speyer is senior director of advertiser solutions at PubMatic.

The views and opinions expressed in Industry Insights are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.