More than $2.1 billion with a “B” – that’s how much has already been booked in total campaign ad spending for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, gubernatorial and other races in the U.S. midterm elections. The new figure comes from “Campaign Ad Scorecard,” an ongoing tracking of political ad spending from Ad Age Datacenter, in partnership with Kantar/CMAG.
Rolled up into the $2.1 billion figure are TV, radio and tracked digital advertising from Dec. 28, 2021, through Election Day as of July 5, 2022. The Ad Age Datacenter includes spending from both the candidates’ campaigns and the political action committees that support them.
Senate races are generating the largest slice of the midterm ad pie, accounting for $878 million of the total with Republicans ($460 million) outspending Democrats ($405 million). The other $13 million in the total is from independent candidates and issue-advocacy ads related to the Senate race.
Gubernatorial contests rank second in spending, clocking in at $517 million with Republicans ($289 million) outspending Democrats ($224 million). The remaining $3 million is attributed to independents and issue-advocacy advertising.
U.S. House races aren’t far behind, responsible for $485 million of the total. Once again, Republicans are outspending Democrats ($265 million to $220 million), with a negligible amount coming from independents and issue advertising.
Media outlets with the most U.S. Senate ad dollars on the line for the period tracked by Ad Age are Georgia ($155 million), Pennsylvania ($143 million) and Arizona ($119 million). In Arizona, Democrats ($72 million) are outspending Republicans ($45 million). One of the drivers in the Arizona Senate contest – which pits incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly, the presumptive Democratic nominee, against a Republican candidate to be determined in the Aug. 2 primary – is heavy investment from political action committees. In fact, four of the five biggest spenders in the Arizona U.S. Senate race are PACs, including the pro-Democratic Senate Majority PAC, which has already shelled out $27 million during the Ad Age Datacenter window.
In the high-profile battleground of Georgia, Democrats are far ahead in spending at $92 million compared to $59 million for Republicans. And in the key swing state of Pennsylvania, Republicans ($84 million) are outspending Democrats ($59 million) on U.S. Senate campaign advertising.
The Ad Age Datacenter analysis doesn’t break out how much money is being allocated in the races by media channel. But as has been the case for eons, local over-the-air TV will garner the largest share of those dollars (44%), followed by connected TV (CTV) in second place and over-the-air radio in third, according to BIA Advisory Services’ updated political ad forecast. But in a shakeup on the political ad landscape, CTV – which delivers digital ad targeting capabilities in a big screen environment – will outperform digital due to the loss of third-party cookies needed for targeted display, along with social media platform crackdowns.
Evan Tracey, Senior VP for Client Strategy at political ad agency National Media, and Bud Jackson, owner of political advertising consultancy Jackson Media Group, agree that TV remains the top choice for campaigns. And that approach isn’t likely to change in this election, they said during "Win the Ad Race: Insights from Political Advertising Experts,” a recent webinar presented by Marketron. Tracey, however, noted that radio plays an important role in the media mix. “I personally have always been a huge fan of radio and continue to be,” he said, pointing to its ability to reach voters in their cars and to target voter segments with specific radio formats. “Whether it's 18-to-24-year-old males listening to sports radio for their gambling tips, or news, traffic and weather, those are still really reliable ways to reach likely voters.”
At the same time, the two political consultants reminded the webinar audience that there is a deliberate pacing employed by ad buyers and radio is generally used later in the campaign to reach voters who don’t make up their minds until late in the game.