Rising Online Advertising Costs in 2024: The Election Year Effect

February 27th, 2024 by Marissa Maggio


Key Insights

  • With the U.S. presidential election coming up, experts project increased advertising competition and rising digital ad costs throughout 2024.
  • While it may be tempting to slash your marketing budget to save short-term advertising costs, you’ll pay the long-term price of leaving your brand dormant this year.
  • The right channel, campaign, and strategy can make the difference between a profitable year and one that succumbs to the pressure of a changing market.

Yes, it’s an election year. Yes, online advertising costs will rise. No, you shouldn’t take the (mistakenly) “economically sound” route and cut the cord on your campaigns.

Digital ad costs ebb and flow seasonally each year, which ushers in higher prices for a slice of inventory. The same goes for when a major election is on the table, like the upcoming U.S. presidential election, which is already proving to be an ad-spend field day on its own.

As high demand and low supply for ad inventory during elections cause prices to hike, many brands put marketing on the chopping block. However, despite the higher price tags, the brands that stay the course and continue advertising are the ones who go into the next year with the best results.

In this blog, we’ll cover everything you need to know about rising digital ad costs in 2024 and offer practical tips for keeping your strategy in shape amidst uncertainty.

Digital Advertising Costs Predicted to Remain High Beyond Q4

Between impromptu holiday campaigns and year-in-review wrap-ups with higher-ups, Q4 is often a frenzy.

Historically, Q4 brings with it an extra chunk of change, often to the advertiser’s benefit. Shoppers rush to both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce stores for holiday deals, spending more than ever, earlier than ever. A smart marketer runs at least one holiday campaign, which ideally, spikes profits and leads that outperform last year.

However, despite these hot sales, there are some drawbacks.

Supply, demand, dilemma

Q4 is a remarkably advantageous time to advertise, and most advertisers know it — making the market more crowded.

This time of year, advertisers find themselves in a bidding war against direct competitors in their industry and against a broad spectrum of entities all vying for the same precious commodity: consumer attention. From small-scale Etsy vendors to major national retailers, the fight for digital ad space becomes increasingly fierce — and costly.

It’s the classic law of supply and demand. More advertisers want online ad space, meaning the demand for inventory on high-converting channels naturally grows. With that growth comes increased competition and rising prices per click or per impression.

2024 to change the tune

For safe budgetary measures, you should always expect rising digital advertising costs in Q4 — unless the yearly data shows differently. Fortunately, though, the dust left over from the madness typically settles in Q1 of the new year.

However, 2024 is shaping up to be different. This year’s Q4 isn’t just about the usual holiday shopping and Black Friday sales. The presidential election will take November by storm, and much of 2024 will be impacted, too.

As political candidates gear up to increase their spend on advertising throughout the year, experts predict costs to remain high across most of 2024 — not just the tail end of the year.

Impact of the 2024 Presidential Election on Digital Ad Costs


Presidential elections are great for the advertising market itself. For the average digital marketer looking to get in front of the eyes of potential buyers, not so much.

Increased spend = increased competition

The 2020 election shattered political ad spending records, being crowned the most expensive campaign year in American history. From traditional media like broadcast TV to online advertising with Google, political advertisers hopped on any and all channels to push their envelope to whoever would take it.

This year’s election is set to take 2020’s ad spend and give it a facelift — to the tune of an estimated $15.9b across all mediums. This whopping forecast would be a 30% jump from the previous presidential election, with AdImpact projecting the 2023-2024 election as the most expensive of all time.

As always, political advertisers mostly rely on local broadcast TV to get their message across. However, an influx of this ad spending growth is moving toward digital channels, with politicians utilizing every medium at their fingertips, from paid search to display.

There’s a whole new layer of competition in the mix this year, one with a powerful presence on both the advertising industry and its market.

Increased competition = increased costs

If there’s one thing all advertisers want, it’s inventory. And if there’s one thing that isn’t always guaranteed, it’s premium inventory.

Running ads on high-converting channels is the goldmine in any advertising sector, be it political, healthcare, or higher education.

Elbowing through a tight crowd to get to those channels is generally to be expected. This election year, however, that crowd looks a little different and a lot bigger.

When competition rises with political advertisers entering the scene, online advertising costs follow suit. Google, Meta, and other prominent digital ad space realtors are auction-based, meaning the bids to show naturally increase with a surge in competition.

How Competition and Rising Online Ad Costs in 2024 Might Affect Your Results

Potential impacts on display campaigns

Being proactive about potential losses during this election year is the best way to safeguard quality results.

Today, display campaigns are particularly popular. If you’re already running one, this is likely where your results will be hit the hardest in 2024.

The worst-case scenario? You see fewer inquiries or leads and fewer sales overall from your digital advertising sources. But that’s assuming you keep the same budget as initially planned.

In this instance, your best bet to mitigate a drop-off in conversions is to increase your ad spend to maintain consistent lead quantities. Sure, the price tag may be a tad higher, but the losses from missed revenue are even greater.

Potential impacts on paid search campaigns

Working with paid search? Now, that’s a different, likely easier story.

With paid search, you’re only competing with other brands relevant to your keywords. Whether you’re a local zoo or a national SEO agency, you won’t be threatened by Candidate X, Y, or Z encroaching upon your space in the search results. You’ll just be warding off direct competitors also bidding on your keywords.

However, you may see an impact if brands in your industry start cropping up, looking to earn more business around Q1 and Q4. Most brands want to begin and end the year on a high note, and rightfully so.

Just be sure to stick to a thoughtful, well-executed advertising strategy, and you won’t feel too much pressure.

The same sentiment goes for all of your digital advertising campaigns in 2024. Put in the right amount of time, effort, and money, and you can maintain the results and even accomplish your goals for the year.

Strategies to Manage Increased Digital Ad Costs in 2024


Stay the course

As the old saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Inevitably, the market will be disrupted from time to time. Sometimes, it even gets turned on its head, like we saw with the COVID-19 pandemic. But brands who persist in uncertain times are the ones who come out on top, now and well into the future.

A consistent online presence is what will make you relevant amidst all the political clutter.

It’s important to avoid caving into the temptation that pulling the plug on or limiting your use of online ads this year will save you money. In the long run, you’ll only lose your brand reach, impression, and the results you worked so hard to maintain.

Marketing is a long-term investment, not an on-and-off again, quirky commitment. As long as you keep with the course, budget appropriately, and stay vigilant of your competition, you’ll avoid the aftermath of dormant mode.

Optimize your marketing mix

Just because you shouldn’t cut online ad expenditures doesn’t mean you can’t save any money this election year.

The cheat code for low ad costs and high-performing results boils down to your marketing mix.

  • Where are you advertising?
  • What campaigns are you running, and to whom?
  • Are any campaigns underperforming, and if so, on which channel(s)?

Keep your budget and results in good standing by leveraging the marketing mix that yields the best returns. We recommend concentrating your efforts on the ad campaigns/channels that yield the most clicks or conversions and are most popular with your target audience.

Track trends in your target audience and relevant consumer shopping trends to best optimize your marketing mix and meet prospects where they are.

Remember that consumer behavior is also expected to shift during this election year. Many people will spend more time online to stay updated on the election, which could increase their exposure to your ads. Others may pull back their time surfing the Web or change where they spend their time online.

Enlist an online advertising agency for help

If 2024’s advertising market changes leave you with more questions than answers, the good news is you don’t have to navigate it alone.

Outsourcing your marketing to an agency takes much of the heavy lifting off your plate at a fraction of the headache of doing it all DIY. When you put your strategy in the hands of experts, you’ll get industry insights, creative, tech, and strategic know-how, and performance results backed by rigorous data.

Working with an agency also doesn’t have to be a huge cost undertaking in an already unsteady landscape. The best agencies are there to ensure you make the most use of your advertising budget by optimizing for the right marketing mix.

Plus, with their industry expertise, you’ll always be made aware of any economic shifts and trends in the ad atmosphere.

Proactive, not reactive.

As Jared Belsky from MarketingPros writes, “Don’t underestimate the cost of not being at the forefront of trends.” Otherwise, you may get lost in the shuffle of the industry’s next bout of turbulence.

Stay Ahead of the Curve With Search Influence

At Search Influence, we’ve weathered the advertising storms of elections, pandemics, recessions, and everything in between.

When you partner with us, your goals become our goals, and we’ll work to always keep your advertising campaigns running at peak performance. This election year, we’ll place extra emphasis on the right messaging and creative and testing new platforms to maintain your results.

As always, we’ll monitor and optimize your campaigns based on the goals set with a focus on leveraging your competitive advantage. Your dedicated account manager will promptly alert you to any changes we see in your market, with actionable steps for maximizing your online presence.

Keep your strategy in safe hands during times of uncertainty. See how our expert digital advertising services can put you ahead of the curve today.

Image Sources:

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