Retargeter Blog

Debunking the Online Ad Shortage Myth

The Digital Campaign

With election season in full swing, the presidential battle has made it to television, the airwaves, and online. Unlike previous elections, digital outreach has been, and will continue to be, a significant component of political ad spending. In fact, online ad spending by campaigns is predicted to reach a whopping $159 million by November.

In light of these large numbers, many digital marketers (both inside and outside campaigns) are asking, could there be an online inventory shortage in the run up to November?

Speculation abounds, but the short answer is no.

The long answer is well, not exactly.

While the display ad market as a whole should not be materially affected, we can expect some geotargeted and pre-roll video inventory to be hard to come by later in the year.

The Display Market

Campaigns are already using display heavily, and there is no evidence to suggest they can increase their spend enough to materially affect the display market as a whole. There’s simply too much inventory for it to run out, or for prices to rise dramatically. Brands spending advertising dollars on display (particularly real-time bidding or targeted inventory) should not expect to be affected by even a massive uptick in online spending this fall.

Your media spend should in no way be affected by the upcoming political ad explosion, particularly if your display purchases consist largely of retargeting, audience targeting, or even run of network buys. However, there are a few specific areas where campaigns are likely to focus their ads and this inventory may become scarce come fall.

Where Inventory Issues May Arise

While the market at large should not be affected, campaigns can be expected to make large strategic direct buys on the most relevant sites. These direct buys will limit availability on specific sites, but won’t affect the market as a whole. During party conventions and in the run up to the election, many campaigns will focus digital dollars on political news and interest sites. Without a doubt, this inventory will become scarce if it’s not gone already. Back in April, Colin Delaney of epolitics said, “I heard Politico’s front page is already completely unavailable during at least one of the party conventions, and it didn’t go cheap.” If inventory was still available then, it probably isn’t now. 

Other competitive inventory will be geotargeted, local interest websites in battleground states. Local newspaper sites, for example, are likely to be aggressively sought after by both presidential campaigns, ensuring that this inventory will be extremely hard to come by. The Obama campaign already demonstrated a fondness for this tactic during the Republican primaries, blanketing local news sites in states like Iowa and New Hampshire with display ads on the day of the primaries.

Pre-Roll Video Inventory

Seattle based video ad firm Mixpo recently released a report predicting shortages in highly coveted pre-roll video ad inventory. Of all online channels, video is the most familiar and largely the most trusted by campaigns, so it’s unsurprising that this type of inventory is in such high demand.

Mixpo predicts that demand for video inventory will exceed supply in several pivotal states. According to their forecast, in Indiana, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Florida, and Nevada (all key swing states) demand could exceed supply by 20% to 28%. In swing states New Hampshire, Montana, Virginia, and Missouri the supply shortage is predicted to be even higher—30% or above.

The only non-swing states with likely inventory shortages are Massachusetts, where Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown are currently engaged in a heated Congressional battle, and Washington.

If you’re concerned about a potential ad shortage affecting your display purchases, don’t be. Unless your digital marketing strategy is largely dependent on this competitive inventory, you will not be affected.

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