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Pace Of Political Ad Spend Slips Behind 2020, As Senate Races Are Starting To Heat Up.

Political pros say it is the proverbial quiet before the advertising storm. For the time since the 2024 election cycle began last year, spending now trails where it stood four years ago. The tracking firm AdImpact says as of March 15, a total of $1.99 billion has been invested in political ad spending. That is slightly behind what had been spent during the same period in 2020.

During the past two weeks, $109.1 million in political ads have been tracked and that offers some hints of why radio should remain optimistic about the category, even though the presidential primary was more fizzle than sizzle for most stations. AdImpact says it continues to see strong spending in the competitive U.S. Senate races where local broadcasters typically pull in more ad dollars.

It is primary day in Ohio today (March 19). Incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown will face the winner of a three-way Republican primary. AdImpact says there has been $48.3 million in ad spending in the Ohio primary, mainly by the three GOP contenders. Matt Dolan has had the most ad support with $17.2 million, followed by the Trump-endorsed candidate, Bernie Moreno, with $15.7 million, and Frank LaRose with $5.4 million in ad support. What’s even more impressive is AdImpact says $142.7 million has already been booked in general election ad buys for the Senate race. Republican groups have slightly outspent Democrats, as they believe they will be able to pick up the seat as part of their quest to regain control of the Senate.

Things have also been heating up in Arizona, and it has nothing to do with the arrival of spring. Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s announcement that she will not be seeking a second term has injected some ad dollars into the race that has so far only seen about $2 million in total spending. Democratic hopeful Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) made his first traditional media buy last week, bringing his total spend to more than $1.5 million, according to AdImpact. Former television news anchor Kari Lake, the Republican frontrunner, has so far invested about $95,000 on ads.

AdImpact projects a record $10.2 billion will be spent during the 2023-2024 election cycle across all media, including radio. The forecast, if accurate, would mean political ad spending will grow 13% from the record $9.02 billion that was allocated during the last presidential election cycle four years ago. AdImpact forecasts radio will get $116 million from House and Senate contests with another $84 million from the presidential race. In addition to Ohio and Arizona, states holding primary contents today also include Florida, Illinois, and Kansas.

During the last two weeks, AdImpact says the top markets for political ad spending were Chicago ($7.6 million), Cleveland ($6.0 million), and Washington, DC ($5.8 million).

The presidential race has shifted into general election mode. After President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump clinched their parties’ nominations last week, ad spending has slowed significantly, although the pro-Trump MAGA Inc. has been buying radio ads in Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. AdImpact says the Democrat-aligned Future Forward PAC has placed $130.2 million in ad buys for August. Apart from that, only $2.3 million in other ad time has been reserved in the general election.

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