Even without a heated presidential contest, the 2022 election year may bring nearly as much spending as was seen two years according to analysts at AdImpact. The advertising tracking service has issued its 2022 political projects and it expects $8.9 billion to be spent during the current cycle. That is only a small drop from the $9.02 estimated spending during 2020, and more than twice the $3.96 billion that was spent on advertising during the prior midterm elections in 2018.
“The 2022 figure is impressive and a little surprising based on the conventional wisdom that, if held, would assume more subdued electoral activity this year,” says AdImpact. “But so far this cycle, the data we’re seeing shows a major increase in spending activity over past cycles.”
Driving the gains will be what is shaping to be a competitive election year. There are gubernatorial races in 36 states – including competition races in Florida, California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona – and the Democrats’ razor thin margins in the House and Senate mean that every seat has the potential to flip control of both chambers.
AdImpact says the outlook is based on historical data. Its analysis shows that political media activity in during the second quarter of 2021 was 107% higher than Q2 of 2019, which is surprising given that the 2020 cycle had a presidential race. It says the increased political ad spending activity is coming from a wide variety of advertisers across the country, indicating it is not just one active group driving spending.
“Historical trends indicate that spending generally grows quarter-by-quarter over a two-year cycle. If we hold true to this current trend, even the most bullish forecast could potentially undersell spending levels for the coming elections,” the firm says.
Digital fundraising is expected to continue to play a pivotal role in helping candidates collect cash to spend throughout the election. Analysts say they have seen widespread use of Facebook as a fundraising tool to allow campaigns to quickly and easily reach a highly polarized electorate. Combined with the rise of easy online donation tools such as ActBlue and WinRed, AdImpact says that allows candidates and issue groups to raise more money than ever before.
“With more cash on hand, candidates have the flexibility to spend earlier compared to past cycles, utilize expanded platforms, and generally deploy these cash reserves with greater breadth and precision,” the outlook says. “In recent years, many electoral competitions start more than a year out from election day, from presidential to down-ballot races.”
The election cycle is already underway in Texas which will hold the state’s primary on March 1. Four more state primary ad windows will open next month, with 20 more opening in April.
AdImpact has not issued a specific outlook for radio, but it is for the first time projecting how much it thinks will be spent on connected TV advertising. It thinks $1.5 billion of the $9 billion total will go toward CTV as campaigns adapt to changes in screen consumption habits.
“But that isn’t to discount the importance of traditional media in a given election,” it says, saying broadcast TV is likely to capture the lion’s share of spending this cycle. “These persuasion-style ads are blasted across relevant markets, and often provide candidates with a good amount of earned media as well,” the firm says. It says radio will benefit closer to the dates when votes are cast.
For sales teams looking to capitalize on the flood of spending, AdImpact data suggests they should look beyond the candidate. During the 2020 cycle, it says 51% of political spending came from special interest groups, and 49% came from candidates. It notes that those groups also pay higher rates than candidates, who are often eligible for lowest unit rate from stations. “We also see issue groups benefitting from small-dollar donors in addition to anonymous mega-donors,” the firm says.