With strong tallies in the last two election cycles, the total political TV ad pie could reach $3 billion in 2016, thanks to addressability and targeting, especially with cable spot buys.
That was a key takeaway from a wide-ranging panel on addressability during the Advanced Advertising: Profiting from a Targeted Audience event hosted Wednesday by Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News.
"Everything else is cute, but you've got to have the data to back up the buys," Comcast Spotlight VP Dan Sinagoga told moderator Kent Gibbons, executive editor of Multichannel News.
"This category has historically been about five to 10 years behind the rest of the business," Sinagoga continued. "But in this space it's way ahead. No one uses more data to improve their results."
The scoreboard is starting to reflect that shift. Comcast stats show the total political ad haul hit $4 billion in 2012 and 2014. In '16, it will reach between $4.5 billion and $5.5 billion, with $3 billion of that on TV.
One hot sector is spot cable. It is a key vehicle because of how late in races targeted inventory is needed. About 75% of all buys come after July 4, with the bulk happening post-Labor Day. Cable set-top box data and other insights enable campaigns to reach a precise cross-section of voting viewers.
"We now have the ability to go much deeper," said Michael Bologna, president of MODI Media.
Scale can be challenging, though. As effective as targeting is on a regional or system basis, once the buy requires more than 30% of the U.S. or CPMs more than $5, "one-to-many makes more sense" than addressable, Bologna said.
"Getting national is a stretch," agreed Chris Monteferrante, VP and head of ad sales for AT&T AdWorks. "It's happening, but we are not yet really talking about it."