The 2020 political advertising season is poised to deliver $215 million in ad buys to radio, according to the first forecast released by Kantar’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. While it paints a more tempered political ad spending picture than some other outlooks, Kantar/CMAG VP/General Manager Steve Passwaiter says radio could wind up with more money in its pocket come Election Day that what their forecast currently says.
“I think there could be some upside there,” says Passwaiter. “It depends how much TV gets booked up in key markets.” As linear television viewing numbers have softened, it has meant that local TV stations don’t have the points needed by campaigns. And while OTT digital television is growing, Passwaiter thinks it does not yet have the inventory needed to handle the demand “Maybe radio can run into that gap a bit,” he says.
Kantar/CMAG is projecting a solid increase overall in 2022 compared to the 2018 midterms. It estimates overall political spending will reach $7.8 billion. But Passwaiter tells Inside Radio how much will be spent will ultimately be driven by how much each of political parties raises.
“The fundraising spigots on both sides are turned on to the maximum for every level of donor. That drives this bus,” says Passwaiter. The consensus in Washington is that the Republicans will benefit since the party out of power typically does well in the midterms. Passwaiter thinks the 2022 race will have “a little more oomph” because of how closely divided Congress is. Not only is the Senate split 50-50, but the Democrats now hold a slimmer majority in the House.
Beyond Washington, Passwaiter is watching open gubernatorial races in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Wisconsin, all of which could be very competitive. U.S. Senate elections in North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona should also help boost ad spending numbers.
Broadcast television will continue to capture the largest share of budgets. Kantar/CMAG projects local TV stations will get $3.8 billion in midterm spending. That compares to $3.05 billion received during the 2018 midterms, a 25% increase despite its falling viewer numbers. But Passwaiter says midterms tend to be driven by turning out older voters, and that will help make broadcast TV a critical part of their media plan.
Cable and satellite TV services are forecast to get $1.4 billion worth of midterm buys, a 17% jump from four years ago. The OTT streaming television services are seeing gains too, with Kantar estimating those platforms will get $1.2 billion in political buys. And digital media – primarily Google and Facebook – will see $1.2 billion, an increase of a third from 2018.
The Kantar/CMAG political spending outlook is slightly more muted than the forecast released this week by AdImpact. It said even without a Presidential election, ad spending totals for the 2021-2022 election cycle will approach $9 billion.
Passwaiter says he too has seen a “very strong” start to the midterm season kicked off by both the Virginia governor’s race and the California recall election this fall. But in a post for Ad Age, he also acknowledges that the upcoming election season may leave some disappointed when they compare political ad figures that rolled in during the 2020 campaign. Replacing the $1.6 billion spent by Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg and during the Georgia Senate runoff will be “nearly impossible,” he says.