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Facebook and Google Are Big Winners As Political Ad Money Moves Online

July 21, 2016, 9:35 PM UTC
Courtesy of Fox

Jeb Bush blew all his campaign cash on TV. Hillary Clinton will drop a lot on Facebook ads. And Donald Trump, well, his ad spending strategy is anyone’s guess.

As the 2016 Presidential race kicks into overdrive, a bonanza of ad dollars will rain down on TV stations and, for the first time, on digital platforms too. According to a widely-cited report from Borrell Associates, political campaigns will spend over $1 billion on digital advertising compared to just a relative trickle in 2012.

But where will this money go? Media analysts told Fortune it will go to digital display ads, and they expect two companies—Facebook and Google—will get the lion’s share of the money. According to Steve Passwaiter of CMAG, others digital darlings like Snapchat and Twitter (TWTR) are angling for campaign cash as well, but candidates are unlikely to drop any serious cash on them this election cycle.

Other tidbits from the Borrell report are that 49% of all digital ad spending is expected to go to social media, and that campaigns will devote 23% of this spending to be directed at mobile devices.

But while digital has soared nearly six-fold since the 2012 race, it’s still dwarfed by other forms of political advertising. According to the Borrell report, the traditional TV industry will gobble around 60% of ad spend compared to about 10% for digital:


This breakdown, though, is expected to shift considerably by 2020.

“It’s becoming more and more clear that the blush is off the rose with massive TV advertising, and yet it still happens. Look at the Jeb Bush campaign-Jeb spent every dollar he had on TV,” said Kip Cassino of Borrell, which predicts digital spending will rise to 25% during the next presidential campaign.

As for the $1 billion figure cited in the report, some analysts expressed skepticism the figure will be this high. But as one media agency told Fortune, the proportion of digital ad spending will vary widely depending on the nature and sophistication of the political campaign.

According to Jim Walsh of DSPolitical, top-level campaigns like that of Hillary Clinton, are likely to devote well over 20% of their ad budget to digital media. Walsh says this because online targeting tools have improved significantly in years, allowing campaigns to find and persuade precious swing voters in key states who will likely determine the election.

A version of this article appears in the August 1, 2016 issue of Fortune.