IX Perspectives

Prime, Election Season – Marketplace Pulse: October 8

Marketplace Pulse October 8th 2020

Prime, Election Season

From any vantage point, October has a lot going on. This is especially true when talking Ad Spend. That is not a value statement; it’s just an objective fact. The run-up to the US presidential election, Amazon Prime Day, and the start of Q4 will be a force multiplier. It is going to be a strong month across multiple sectors.

The shift to a dominant e-commerce economy happened with a bang when the Pandemic hit. The practicality of one-off in-store promotions, where supply was limited (see TickleMe Elmo) and aggravation in endless supply (see Black Friday fistfights), became dubious years ago. Now that in-store retail has a public health dimension to account for, I don’t see how we go back.

Something else to note – Ad Spend will be more distributed over a period of time rather than a few tentpole days (per 2020, all curves must eventually flatten). Prime Day pushed to mid-October as a result of COVID. This is not just a sale day for Amazon either; it has ripple effects across all of digital. OEM spend will pick up significantly — think of this as just a lil’ extra Q4 bonus.

Similarly, media fragmentation has increased the importance of online advertising for elections. Quite simply, you need to be where the people are – and TV’s decline becomes digital’s gain.

So like I said – there is a lot going on.

Hope you are Staying Safe, Healthy, and Happy.

Will Doherty
EVP, Global Marketplace Development
Index Exchange

Harvest Moon

Political spending on the exchange is picking up as we head towards election day in the US. Compared to the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 midterm elections, political Ad Spend is outpacing prior benchmarks. Digital, and programmatic specifically, is no longer an afterthought for any campaign.

Political Spend Indexed to September 1, 2020
Political Spend Indexed to September 1, 2020

In fact – political Ad Spend is tracking significantly ahead of prior election years, substantially so. So much so we decided to model it out all the way through the end of the month. The dotted line is our forecast for the remainder of the election season.

Pie chart of election year including video and banner advertising spend
Pie chart of election year including video and banner advertising spend

Video has also rightly taken its place as the dominant medium for campaigns. As TV viewership declines, online video is filling the gaps.

Chart of political vs non-political content spend on advertising
Chart of political vs non-political content spend on advertising

As for categories, News and Media get the lion share of Ad Spend followed by Sports (proportionally, political spending over-indexes to a wide margin). If you are a Publisher in one of the top five categories, you may want to revisit category blocks for the next month.

Q3 Flash Report

Chart of Q3 advertising spend per industry category
Chart of Q3 advertising spend per industry category

I covered this in more depth in the last newsletter but wanted to show the final quarterly numbers. Q3 ended strong, with every category showing material increases throughout.

What We Are Hearing 

  • Buyers are ready for a chaotic Q4. Negative news cycles, including the possibility of post-election confusion and COVID updates, won’t deter their plans. However, massive social unrest is far different from negative news cycles. We will see Ad Spend pull back in the event of any form of clashes in the streets.
  • It’s not clear yet if that means Buyers are planning to barbel the quarter by heaving up in October and December, but it seems likely.


The only Q I care about is Q4. This is for good reason as Q4 is when the industry makes its year. That is just about the only truism left in 2020. An election normally just adds some heat to a stoked fire, but with the pandemic and a particularly divisive political climate, a sense of uncertainty remains. However, that uncertainty shouldn’t be construed as pessimistic (as far as Ad Spend goes). It will be a strong Q4. It’s just not going to unfold as it has in years past. You will need to make sure you write your playbook in pencil. Be flexible. And get primed for a wild ride.