This past election was, as evidenced by the highest popular vote ever, very important to many people. Of course, no one cared more about the election results than President Trump and former Vice President Biden. Though the average voter also seemed very motivated this year to learn about the candidates as proven by the high ratings achieved for the Presidential Debates.
One of the many ways that Trump and Biden sought to communicate to their supporters, and to win over the undecided, was through social media, particularly Facebook. I am not talking about all the free attention that Trump, and to a lesser extent, Biden, got from their own posts on Twitter, but rather the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on paid social media advertising reaching out to all ages, gender and races in the U.S. through the social media giant, Facebook. In fact, each candidate hit all time highs in Facebook advertising expenditures.
Over the last 22 months, ABC 7 Los Angeles’ Eyewitness News, has reported that both Trump and Biden in this election, spent more INDIVIDUALLY on Facebook advertising than both Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent combined during the 2016 election. Reportedly, Biden spent over $94 million on Facebook ads in this election, and Trump spent even more – reporting $107 million spent on Facebook ads.
Not only was the 2020 election very good to Facebook, but Facebook overall has rebounded strongly from the lower advertising revenue driven in the early months of the pandemic. There can be no doubt that social media and overall digital advertising expenditures are now rivalling TV advertising in importance.
The Wesleyan Media Project, an enterprise run out of Wesleyan University (full disclosure, I am an alumnus), has gathered and analyzed extensive data on the advertising expenditures of Presidential, Senatorial and Congressional candidates.
In the case of the Presidential race, they estimated that Trump spent over $426 million in advertising for his candidacy, and Biden spent $564 million. Despite Trump having less to spend on advertising, he over-spent Biden considerably in terms of digital spend, directing over $201 million to digital advertising, vs. Biden’s digital expenditure of $166 million. The same pattern existed in terms of TV advertising with Trump’s spend on TV being $222 million vs. $376 million was spent on TV advertising for Biden.
This year has been, obviously, a very hard time for most people economically, socially and psychologically. But thanks to Presidential espousals, at least the TV advertising and digital advertising businesses got big boosts (political stimulus you might say) from the 2020 elections.