AdImpact's just-released projections for 2022's total midterm election ad spend push its estimate closer to the $10 billion mark – $9.67 billion, to be exact – which would make it the second consecutive election cycle to pass $9 billion and the most expensive midterm, not to mention political ad cycle, on record. Compared to 2018's $3.96 billion spend, 2022 has already surpassed that at $4.88 billion, with the remainder coming from August-through-November ads, which usually account for two-thirds of total spend.
“With massive increases in political expenditures coming year after year, a new norm has been established in the world of political advertising: it no longer takes a Presidential ticket at the top of the ballot to push a cycle near the $10B threshold,” AdImpact's report says. “An increasingly polarized electorate and easily accessible online fundraising tools have been major factors propelling this surge in spending.”
While historically Presidential elections have received the largest share of the political ad pie, accounting for nearly a third of total spend in both the 2016 and 2020 elections, over the first 19 months the 2022 cycle has seen $700 million more than 2020, even without a Presidential election on the ticket.
Driving up ad spend and helping fill the Presidential void are 2022's 38 Gubernatorial elections, vs. just 14 in 2020. While Gubernatorial election ad spend fell from $1.1 billion in 2018 to $246 million in 2020, 2022 has already seen six times what was spent in 2020, and is projected to reach $2.43 billion for the cycle.
At $4.98 billion, broadcast television is expected to make up more than half (51.5%) of 2022's total political ad spend, with radio pegged at $270 million or 2.77%. The remainder is fairly evenly split among cable, CTV and digital media.
Breaking down AdImpact's spending forecast by races, down-ballots account for $2.99 billion, followed by Guburnatorial at $2.43 billion, Senate races at $2.37 billion and House at $1.88 billion. Those numbers reflect an estimated 136% increase in Senate, 100% increase in Gubernatorial and 60% increase in House election ad spend, vs. 2018.