The 2024 political landscape is already shaping up to be just as contentious — if not more so — than that of 2020.
According to recent findings from the Pew Research Center, 78% of Americans report being unsatisfied with candidates running for president.
Only 35% said they were satisfied with each party’s presidential candidate. And 77% of Americans believe the country is going in the wrong direction per PRRI, with differing views of what that direction may be.
Whether in the presidential or local elections, next year’s political races will have a large impact across the U.S. This will also affect advertisers — especially since issues related to politics may play into brand messaging.
Let’s dive into how politics may influence digital marketing in 2024.
Table of Contents
Political Advertising Trends
What trends might we see in political advertising for the upcoming elections? Here are the ones to pay attention to.
Political Ad Spending Will Soar
The 2024 presidential election will likely be one of the most expensive races in American politics. Political ad spending is expected to reach $11 billion in 2024, according to a Vivvix analysis, making it one of the fastest-growing advertising sectors.
Political ad tracking firm AdImpact estimates that $307.61 million has been spent in the 2024 election cycle so far. That’s a 152% increase from the $121.77 million spent at the same point in the 2020 election cycle.
But this won’t just stop in 2024. Political spending is expected to continue rising over the next several campaign cycles. We should note that most of the spending will still go to linear TV and traditional media, though spending in digital channels like connected TV (CTV) and influencer marketing is growing.
Increased Emphasis on Personalization and Microtargeting
Political campaigns will likely continue investing heavily in data analytics and machine learning to refine their targeting strategies. They will seek to deliver highly personalized messages to individual voters based on their demographics, interests and online behavior.
Video Content Will Dominate
Video content — especially short-form videos on platforms like TikTok and Instagram — could play a pivotal role in political campaigns. These platforms offer a more engaging and easily shareable format for conveying messages, reaching younger demographics, and going viral.
The Rise of Emerging Platforms
Political advertisers may explore emerging and niche social media platforms to connect with specific voter segments. Platforms that gain traction in the coming years could become valuable channels for political messaging and outreach.
Stricter Regulation and Transparency
Given concerns about misinformation and privacy, there may be increased regulatory scrutiny on political advertising, leading to more stringent rules and requirements for transparency.
Political advertisers may need to disclose more information about their ads and targeting practices. As we head toward the 2024 elections, it will be important to monitor how these policy changes affect political dialogue on each platform.
Local Elections Will Be the Biggest Contributors to Political Ad Spending
In the 2020 campaign, $3.1 billion of the total $9.04 billion in spending was on the presidential race per AdImpact. The remaining $5.9 billion was spent on house, senate, governor and other down-ballot races. For the 2022 midterms, $3 billion more was spent on those non-presidential races compared to 2020.
Similar to presidential political ad spending, the majority of local political ad spending has been in cable and broadcast TV, but CTV, paid social and mobile/desktop ads are making gains. We can expect these trends to continue in 2024.
AI Usage in Ads Will Be Restricted
According to a recent BBC report, Google will start requiring political ads to disclose if they were made using artificial intelligence beginning in November 2023. This new rule comes one year before the 2024 U.S. presidential election.
While Google already prohibits misleading political and social issue ads, the new policy mandates clear on-screen text when imagery or audio is artificially generated.
There is concern that AI could be used to manipulate voters, as some past presidential candidates have already created misleading synthetic media. As Google aims to capture more political ad revenue for the 2024 election, the company must enforce its new AI disclosure rules to avoid potential penalties.
Additional Scrutiny on Digital Platforms To Prevent Misinformation
Political misinformation on digital platforms during the last two presidential elections and the pandemic has led to more scrutiny. Some platforms have implemented measures to appease regulators, and some have not. Here’s the pulse on some of the leading platforms when it comes to political disinformation.
Google has faced pressure to strengthen its policies around misinformation. Now, there are concerns about platforms’ ability to handle a potential influx of AI-generated content — especially as Google has made AI a priority to compete with OpenAI and other tech firms in the AI arms race.
YouTube has decided to reverse its previous ban on content that alleges fraud in past U.S. presidential elections, which was implemented after the contentious 2020 election. This update to YouTube’s misinformation policies is intended to maintain political neutrality on the platform and address lingering issues from 2020. However, restrictions will remain in place against hate speech, harassment and content that incites violence.
YouTube states that walking back the election fraud ban demonstrates its commitment to upholding a safe and respectful environment, even as it plots a course through the complexities of regulating political speech. The changes will not impact YouTube’s advertising and monetization standards.
Under Elon Musk’s helm, Twitter, now known as X, has been named by different news outlets and governments as one of – if not the – largest purveyors of fake news (i.e., both misinformation and disinformation) worldwide. Recently, X laid off half of its election integrity staff focused on limiting disinformation and election fraud.
X also discontinued a feature allowing users to report political misinformation. X will now allow political ads for the first time since 2019 and claims it is hiring for safety and election roles ahead of 2024.
Microsoft’s acquired ad tech firm, Xandr, told clients that it won’t allow political advertisements on its platform starting October 1, 2023. Any ads pertaining to politics, gambling, alcohol, vaping or tobacco are prohibited moving forward.
Xandr’s partnership with Netflix, which also bans political ads, may explain this decision since Xandr is known for offering “exclusive access to premium, connected TV inventory” on Netflix, which forbids political ads.
Consumers’ Sentiments on Politics
Beyond these trends, how do regular people feel about the political landscape and political ads? How might this direct the way brands touch on politics or deliver ads themselves? Let’s explore.
Journalism by the People, for the People
According to a recent Gallup and Knight Foundation poll, people tend to place more trust in individual news providers than in media institutions. With the journalism industry facing declining trust and revenue, outlets are searching for creative ways to engage audiences digitally.
Some are tapping into journalists’ personal brands to foster reader loyalty. In today’s creator economy of social media influencers and Substack newsletters, relying on journalists’ personal reputations aligns with larger trends. But this strategy involves more than just positioning journalists as online personalities.
Values Vary by Generation
Per a September 2021 survey by Collage Group, consumers have mixed views on brands taking public stances on social and political issues, known as “brandstanding.” Younger consumers are more likely to support brand activism, but 42% of U.S. adults believe brands should avoid weighing in on these topics.
Of those who want brands to engage on social issues, opinions diverge on the scope — 30% believe brands should always address social and political topics, while 28% think brands should only speak out on issues directly related to their products and services. The data shows generational divides and a lack of consensus around the appropriate role for brands in social and political discourse.
Gen Z Craves Authenticity
Gen Z — the generation born after 1997 and before 2010 — supports brands that demonstrate a commitment to equity, sustainability and mental health. But Gen Z isn’t easily convinced by performative brand actions and can see through such activities a mile away.
To build brand loyalty with Gen Z, avoid short-term, half-hearted or superficial gestures that support sustainability, mental health or antiracism efforts. Instead, if you want to both cater to Gen Z as well as focus on these issues, make you prove that your brand has a true, long-term commitment to them.
Here are two other tips:
- Create value-based messaging that resonates with customer needs without being performative.
- Use customer insights to personalize content for niche groups within the larger Gen Z segment.
We’re More Divided Than Ever
The American public is deeply split on political and social matters. A January 2022 NBC News poll found that 70% of respondents believe America has become so polarized that it can no longer solve major national problems.
People expect these divisions to widen further. Polarization breeds distrust of those with differing views and a tendency to judge actions in simplistic, black-and-white terms, leaving little room for subtlety or clarification. Brands wanting to elaborate on their sustainability or diversity efforts, for instance, risk backlash from consumers who feel the brand isn’t doing enough on those fronts.
The Opposite Effect
But marketers also must keep in mind that there’s been a backlash against brands who do support diversity efforts. Consider the conservative boycotts in Q3 2023 of Bud Light and Target. For the first time in a long time, these boycotts against “woke capitalism” hit the bottom lines of both brands.
Conversely, some liberal consumers, in response to Target’s removing LGBTQ+ merchandise from its stores or Bud Light’s not publicly supporting Dylan Mulvaney post-boycotting, had negative sentiments about them as well since they felt these actions (or lack thereof) did not seem to align with true commitments to supporting LGBTQ+ causes.
Both brands and retailers must be very sensitive to the divided political climate we’re in right now — especially as efforts that impact spending from political groups on both sides have ramped up in the past few years. What’s most important is understanding your audiences and what may alienate them.
Americans Don’t Want To See Political Ads on Social Media
A majority of Americans want social media platforms to prohibit political advertising, according to a 2020 Pew Research Center survey. The poll found that 54% of U.S. adults think social media companies should ban all political ads.
This underscores an enduring opposition to such ads during election cycles. However, the growing prevalence of political ads on social media — coupled with worries about misinformation — casts doubt on their future function in digital election campaigns.
More 2024 Trends To Keep Tabs On
From increased political ad spending to stricter regulation and privacy, a growing distrust of traditional news outlets, and deep consumer divides on political and social issues, 2024 will most likely shape up to be a turbulent year.
The political landscape leading up to the 2024 elections will bring major changes to digital marketing strategies and consumers’ sentiments. Brands, retailers and marketers need to closely monitor emerging trends in political advertising to connect with voters while respecting their preferences, as well as being mindful of platform regulations.
For more trends to watch out for, check out these resources:
- The top 15 B2C digital marketing trends for 2024.
- The top 20 B2B digital marketing trends for 2024.
- How Google Topics will impact user expecting and advertising targeting post-2024 cookie deprecation.
Caitlyn Monse is a research analyst at Goodway who lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Before transitioning to a research and strategy-related role, Caitlyn worked at Goodway as a media solutions manager. She also has prior account management, sales and customer service experience. Caitlyn graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Radio, Television & Film from the University of North Texas and knows American Sign Language.