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Presidential Debate Ad Space Will Go at a Premium Thanks to High Debate Ratings

November 19th, 2019   ||    by Oriana Schwindt

With the fifth Democratic primary debates around the corner, and the fourth debate this past October drawing the smallest audience thus far (8.34 million viewers, per The Hollywood Reporter, compared to 18.1 million for the second round, according to Reuters), presidential debate ad space is a hot topic for advertisers.

The November 20 debate will have even more stringent qualifying rules than previous nights, paring the number of candidates down to ten. Julián Castro, for example, was disqualified due to a higher polling threshold, Time reported.

Advertisers have plenty of questions about these debates and their audiences. Here are some answers.

How High Will Ratings Go?

The 2016 election cycle’s primary debates marked the beginning of an upward ratings trend for both Republicans and Democrats. In August 2015, a Republican primary debate drew a massive, record-setting audience of 24 million, according to Reuters.

While the Democratic debate viewership in October perhaps signaled a downward trend, on average, more than 12 million people are tuning in—that’s up from 8 million in 2016, noted The Hollywood Reporter.

There won’t be any Republican primary debates in this election cycle, cutting down on the number of events for which advertisers can expect big numbers, and so presidential debate ad space will be at a premium.

What’s the Best Advertising Approach?

Consumers watching the debates are likely to be highly politically engaged. The debates themselves will be full of heightened drama as the election cycle goes on and the field of candidates narrows down.

If you’re a company that has a progressive-leaning message or story, showcasing that message during these DNC primary debates is a no-brainer. Creative that emphasizes diversity, inclusiveness, and positivity will likely play well with this audience, as opposed to the audience for the 2018 midterm elections.

What About Local?

Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about you. Local presidential debate ad space is crucial in states like New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina—that’s a given. Other states, though, can take advantage of the surging interest in the DNC primary debates.

Much depends on the district in which you’re advertising, and so local advertisers will want to do their research before committing to buys. Even if you’re in a district with a small Democratic voting base, you may still find some advantage in advertising during the DNC primary debates, depending on the demographics of the primary debate viewers in your area.

Political ad spending for the 2020 election will near $10 billion, according to GroupM. In a fractured political landscape, advertisers can agree on one thing: with big audiences come big opportunity.

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