The deluge begins: TV and radio election ad spending hits $148 million

For a tangible sense of just a portion of the cost of
the ridiculously drawn-out, outrageously wasteful U.S.
election-industrial complex, take a look at the exclusive charts
herewith, produced by Ad Age Datacenter in partnership with
Kantar/CMAG.

For starters, glance at our presidential campaign TV and radio
ad-spending tally, below. At the tippy top, there’s Tom Steyer.
If your reaction is “Who?” you’re with the vast majority of
Americans—but props if you know he’s a California hedge fund
billionaire on a quixotic quest. Steyer spent nearly $19.6 million
on ads (through Sept. 23) trying to buy his way onto the Democratic
debate stages; he failed, of course, repeatedly having fallen short
of the minimum polling thresholds needed to qualify.

Ad spending totals by race
Dollars in millions.
# Race Ad spending
1 U.S. president $30.4
2 Louisiana governor 26.2
3 Kentucky governor 23.7
4 North Carolina U.S. House seats 17.4
5 North Carolina U.S. Senate 8.9
6 Mississippi governor 6.6
7 Arizona U.S. Senate 4.0
8 Georgia U.S. Senate 3.8
9 Iowa U.S. Senate 3.6
10 Kentucky U.S. Senate 3.5
  Other 20.2
  Total 1 $148.2
Source: Kantar/CMAG. Spending includes broadcast TV,
local/regional cable and satellite TV, radio and Spanish-language
local TV from Jan. 1, 2019, through Election Day (including advance
bookings) as of Sept. 23, 2019. Numbers rounded.
(1) For presidential, gubernatorial, U.S. Senate and U.S. House
races.
Ad spending totals by presidential campaign candidate or
sponsor
Dollars in millions.
# Candidate/sponsor (party affiliation) Ad spending
1 Tom Steyer (D) $19.6
2 Kirsten Gillibrand (D) 1.6
3 Judicial Crisis Network (R) 1.2
4 Need to Impeach (D) 1.2
5 Tulsi Gabbard (D) 0.9
6 Pete Buttigieg (D) 0.9
7 Presidential Coalition (R) 0.8
8 Joe Biden (D) 0.7
9 John Delaney (D) 0.6
10 Shirley Shawe (anti-Biden) 0.6
  Other 2.2
  Total $30.4
Source: Kantar/CMAG. Spending includes broadcast TV,
local/regional cable and satellite TV, radio and Spanish-language
local TV from Jan. 1, 2019, through Election Day (including advance
bookings) as of Sept. 23, 2019. Numbers rounded.

Includes spending for candidates who may have dropped out of the
race.

But he’s still plugging away—and he also pops up again in
our ranking as the man-behind-the-curtain at No. 4, since he’s
the backer of the Need to Impeach campaign, which is basically the
anybody-but-Trump ticket.

The second-biggest spender is someone who did actually manage a
little face time on the debate stages (at least the first
two)—Kirsten Gillibrand, the junior U.S. senator from New York.
But her marginal polling softened to the point that she failed to
qualify for the third Democratic debate, and she dropped her
presidential bid in late August, after having spent $1.6 million on
ads to win exactly zero votes.

Among those who are expected to secure some votes along the
way—i.e., the subset of contenders who could last until the
primaries—is former Vice President Joe Biden, who has spent
$688,373 on ads so far. (Of note: Spending by Biden and the other
candidates includes advance bookings through 2020, as of Sept 23.)
But with his assorted gaffes and foggy debate performances, Biden
has already arguably negated the branding and goodwill value of
those buys elsewhere on the campaign trail, giving the senior U.S.
senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, an opening to
challenge his front-runner status with, so far, no spending on TV
and radio ads.

Meanwhile, one of the top 10 spenders (to the tune of $617,738)
in the presidential race is a non-candidate, a private citizen
named Shirley Shawe who’s been paying to air anti-Biden ads over
a disagreement she has with him related to the Delaware Chancery
Court system (don’t ask).

Have we mentioned that we’re still more than a year away from
Election Day? Also, these numbers exclude digital ad spending (more
on that in a bit).

Of course, given that there’s only one job up for grabs here
(or two, if you count the VP on the ticket), a list this early in
the game is by definition mostly made up of (inevitable)
losers.

Shift your view to our overall spending-by-party chart, and at
least we’re talking about ad outlays with better odds, given the
dozens of gubernatorial and hundreds of congressional seats in
play. Datacenter analysis shows that at the moment Republicans are
outspending Democrats on TV and radio ads across non-presidential
federal-level races. The biggest sums of money being spent so far
are for gubernatorial races, with Republicans burning through $31
million and Dems $26 million.

Campaign 2020 ad spending
Race and party totals. Dollars in millions.
Race Democrat Republican Other (1) Total
President $27 $2 $1 $30
U.S. Senate 4 7 30 41
U.S. House 8 10 2 20
Governor 26 31 0 57
Total $65 $51 $32 $148
Percent of total 43.9% 34.6% 21.6% 100.0%
Source: Kantar/CMAG. Spending includes broadcast TV,
local/regional cable and satellite TV, radio and Spanish-language
local TV from Jan. 1, 2019, through Election Day (including advance
bookings) as of Sept. 23, 2019. Numbers rounded.

(1) Largely attributable to spending by Doctor Patient Unity.

And in a category of its own in terms of spending ($26.9
million): The secretive advocacy group Doctor Patient Unity, which
has been running ads in North Carolina, Georgia and elsewhere that
take on individual senators (primarily) over “surprise [medical]
billing.” Conglomerates TeamHealth and Envision Healthcare are
funding the blitz,
The New York Times reported
 earlier this month.

Doctor Patient Unity ad spending
Totals by state. Dollars in millions.
# State Ad spending
1 North Carolina $3.9
2 Georgia 3.8
3 Michigan 2.5
4 Arizona 2.5
5 Colorado 2.2
6 Minnesota 2.1
7 New Hampshire 1.9
8 Kentucky 1.9
9 Texas 1.6
10 Iowa 1.5
  Other 3.0
  Total $26.9
Source: Kantar/CMAG. Spending includes broadcast TV,
local/regional cable and satellite TV, radio and Spanish-language
local TV from Jan. 1, 2019, through Election Day (including advance
bookings) as of Sept. 23, 2019. Numbers rounded.

All told, across federal-level and gubernatorial races, we’re
looking at $148 million spent so far on TV and radio ads in the
current cycle.

Now a word about digital campaign ad spending. Though it’s
expected to rise once again in this cycle—stay tuned to Campaign
Trail
 for data on that front—Kantar/CMAG projects that it
will still top out at only about 20 percent of overall
spending.

So once again the real winners of this cycle will mostly be good
old-fashioned media companies. Kantar/CMAG expects TV broadcasters
to pull in $3.2 billion, cable $1.2 billion and radio $400 million
from candidates and their campaigns.

For non-political marketers, that’s really bad news—because
it means less inventory and higher prices, particularly in
battleground states.

For media consumers who will endure billions of dollars’ worth
of (inevitably, increasingly negative) ads, it’s downright
depressing. 

Ad Age Datacenter is Kevin Brown, Bradley Johnson and
Catherine Wolf.

Source: FS – Advertising Blogs !
The deluge begins: TV and radio election ad spending hits 8 million