« Back to Posts

Election Night 2020: TV Ads and Viewer Insights

As many expected heading into Election Day 2020, the winner of the U.S. presidential election was not decided night of, and has stretched out into Wednesday as ballots are still being counted in various states. Still, election night is a major television event — which attracted big advertisers and audiences alike.

First, using data from iSpot.tv, we can measure which brands advertised during national election night coverage (up to midnight ET on Wednesday, November 4) across all networks. Ranked by impressions:

  1. Progressive (118.2 million)
  2. Liberty Mutual (73.9 million)
  3. T-Mobile (45.9 million)
  4. Pray, Inc. (43.0 million)
  5. Therabreath (41.2 million)
  6. SimpliSafe (38.6 million)
  7. Rocket Mortgage (38.3 million)
  8. National Realty Investment Advisors (34.0 million)
  9. Ancestry (33.2 million)
  10. GEICO (32.1 million)

Much of this list didn’t differ too far from typical cable news advertisers, which typically trend more heavily toward insurance and pharmaceutical spots. Auto & general insurance made up over 10% of all impressions during election coverage — far and away the largest brand industry by impressions on the night (network promos were more, but are also not paid ads).

The most-seen ads during election coverage included T-Mobile’s “5G Network Anthem” (44.7 million impressions), Pray Inc.’s “James Earl Jones Reads the Bible” (43.0 million) and National Realty Investment Advisors’ “Low Risk, High Return” (34.0 million).

Notably, most creative stayed away from any mention of the election, though there was an exception: Smirnoff. Its star-studded “Debate Responsibly” ad had 22.8 million impressions on four airings, humorously encouraging voters to avoid talking about politics while drinking Smirnoff Seltzer. The spot was not unique to Election Night, having originally aired back in early October. Interestingly, the brand didn’t push the spot much on social since its debut. According to Tubular Labs, it’s been watched fewer than 3,200 views on YouTube.

But which networks and shows were watched the most on the evening? For that, we turn to VIZIO’s Inscape, the TV data company with insights from a panel of more than 16 million active and opted-in smart TVs.

Of all the live, linear minutes watched during primetime on November 3, 17.13% were spent on Fox News’ election coverage. CNN’s coverage was second at 10.63%, followed by NBC in third, with 8.3%. ABC (6.37%) & MSNBC’s (5.07%) respective broadcasts rounded out the top five. On an hour by hour basis, Fox News led throughout the evening — though it’s notable that the network’s election coverage was also far more newsdesk-focused than it was predicated on its various show personalities.

According to the data from Inscape, overall election coverage viewership peaked at 8-9 p.m. ET, with a 36% share of TVs. Top DMAs for audiences watching election coverage were focused on larger metro areas in the middle of the country, namely: Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Kansas City, New Orleans and Birmingham (Ann and Tusc). Of the top 10 DMAs, seven were in the Central Time Zone, with West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, Cincinnati and Greensboro-High Point-Winston-Salem being the lone exceptions.