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Issue Ad Spending Is Up Double-Digits So Far In 2023, With Radio Among The Benefactors.

Presidential candidates are already spending money on advertising, with placements tracking well ahead of four years ago. Yet 2023 remains an off-election year and that means a lot more of the spending comes from issue-related ads than individual campaigns. The ad-tracking firm AdImpact says during the first half of the year $174 million worth of issue-based advertising was bought, representing 38% of the $458 million that was spent on political ads between January and June. That is a 14% increase in issue advertising spending compared to four years ago.

Like the overall picture, the story for radio is one of growth. While the industry received $7 million of issue ads during the first half – or about four percent of the total – AdImpact says that is a considerable increase from the same period in 2019.

Even so, digital is where nearly half of the dollars have gone. AdImpact says issue groups have spent $83.1 million on digital outlets during the first six months of 2023. Cable television received the second largest share at $48.4 million or 28%, followed by broadcast TV with a 20% share totaling $34.6 million.

In the first half of the year, AdImpact says the Better Medicare Alliance was the top issue advertiser, investing $13.4 million on ads urging Congress not to cut Medicare Advantage. That tally was boosted by its Super Bowl commercial. The PMB Accountability Project ranks second with $6.7 million of ad spending urging Congress to hold pharmacy benefit managers accountable. It is followed by the Healthcare Education Project, which spent $6.1 million related to a New York state Medicaid fight.

Unlike candidate spending which is spent in districts and states where races are competitive, issue ads are often targeted to lawmakers in Washington. So, it is no surprise that AdImpact says the market was the top recipient of issue-related ad dollars during the first half. Washington received $29.3 million of ad buys with New York City the second biggest with $8.9 million.

In its mid-year update, AdImpact says fundraising has been a top priority during the off-year leading into a presidential election. According to its analysis, the conservative watchdog organization Judicial Watch spent $817,000 on first half ads focused on raising money. Its fundraising ads went exclusively to digital outlets as were those placed by California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Campaign for Democracy PAC, which spent $640,000. Overall, AdImpact says Democrats spent $640,000 more on fundraising ads between January and June than Republican-leaning groups.

As for spending overall, AdImpact reported this month that $480.5 million has been spent so far in the 2024 election cycle. That is double the $240 million that was invested up until this point in the 2020 cycle.

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