The political advertising tracking firm AdImpact calculates radio has so far pocketed more than $100 million in the 2022 midterm primary election season. And with control of the House and Senate up for grabs, as well as three dozen governor mansions, it tallies nearly $1 billion of pre-booked ads queuing up for the general election.
AdImpact has calculated $958 million in pre-booked spending across all media between August 1 and Election Day on November 8. That figure has yet to include the scores of down-ballot races. AdImpact says 97% of the ad dollars that have been pre-booked are for Senate ($435 million), House ($300 million) and gubernatorial ($175 million) races.
“Senate races have pooled in almost half of the total pre-booked money seen this year, likely due to the Senate’s current 50-50 split,” AdImpact’s analysis says, adding, “While Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote to give the Democrats a 51-50 lead in the Senate, this year’s midterms could sway the Senate in either direction.”
Adimpact says the general election contest that has seen the highest pre-book spending so far is the Georgia Senate race, while other Senate races around the country make up the rest of the top six. And among the top ten general election races with the highest amount of advertising spending booked so far, there is not only a Senate race but also an election for a new governor in six states: Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, and California. That overflow of contests could serve radio well as the typical go-to of television gets crowded or sold-out.
Political experts say some of the races will be closer than others, but with the balance of power up for grabs, few are holding back. AdImpact has recorded spending for the general election in 34 states and 117 markets. Four states have already seen more than $100 million in pre-bookings across all media types. They include Nevada ($155 million), Georgia ($118 million), Arizona ($113 million), and Pennsylvania ($113 million).
“Of the top ten states with the most spending, six are hosting both Senate and Governor races,” says AdImpact. “Each of the states in the top ten are hosting either a Senate or a Governor’s race.”
On market-level analysis, AdImpact says the most pre-booked buys have landed in Las Vegas where ads totaling $132 million have already been laid-in. Phoenix is second with $94 million, followed by Atlanta at $75 million.
The Democrats are playing defense this cycle as they try to hold onto control of the House and Senate. The result is they have pre-booked more ad time in August, October and November than Republicans, who are currently leading in September.
The month that will face the biggest inventory crunch is likely to be October based on AdImpact data. It says more than half of the pre-booked ad dollars have been scheduled to run in October. That’s when the Democrats have reserved ads totaling $303 million and Republicans have reserved $210 million worth of ads.
Most of the pre-booked ads have been bought by issue groups. AdImpact says they have spent a total $827 million in the general election. “The highest spending issue groups were large PACs spending on Senate races,” its analysis says. “PACs spending on House races are second in total pre-booked spending.”
The biggest spender so far is the Republican Senate Leadership Fund, which has bought $130 million ads while the rival Democrat-controlled Senate Majority PAC has spent $124 million.
Compared to the PACs, candidate campaigns have pre-booked far less to date. AdImpact says direct candidate buys add up to $131 million for spots airing between August 1 and November 8.
Notably, it says Democrat candidates have so far outspent Republican candidates by a $118 million to $13 million margin. It has only one GOP candidate in its list of top spenders right now – Senate candidate Adam Laxalt, who is aiming to unseat incumbent Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV). The other is the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s reelection campaign, which has prebooked $1.9 million of ad time.
As primary season enters its homestretch, AdImpact has recorded $1.6 billion in primary ad spending to date. It cautions that states that experienced robust political spending may not have a repeat performance in the general election, or vice versa.
But at the current pace, spending on the midterm election is likely to surpass the $3.96 billion that AdImpact calculates was spent during the previous midterm in 2018. But most experts doubt it will come near the record $9 billion spent on ads in the 2020 presidential election year.