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Presidential Debate Boosts Ad Spend During Typically Quiet Pre-Holiday Weeks.

The summer lull has yet to hit the political advertising world, in part due to an earlier-than-ever Presidential debate. AdImpact says it has tracked $180.1 million in political ad spending during the past two weeks. That has brought total spending during the current campaign cycle to $3.15 billion. That compares with $2.61 billion spent at this point during the 2020 cycle. That’s the widest gap between the two years since the primary season ended in the spring.

AdImpact says the markets that had the most spending included Philadelphia, where it tracked $11.3 million in political ads during the past two weeks, followed by the Phoenix ($8.8 million), and Atlanta ($8.1 million) markets.

The biggest advertiser was President Biden’s campaign, spending $26.1 million. The Democratic Party-aligned super PAC Future Forward USA Action ranked second, with $19 million. It was followed by Securing American Greatness, which spent $8.8 million in support of former President Trump.

AdImpact has revised its 2023-2024 cycle political ad spending projections upwards from $10.2 billion to a predicted record-breaking $10.69 billion. If that figure proves to be accurate, it would be a 19% increase from the $9.02 billion spent during the 2020 cycle. The ad tracking firm predicts radio’s share of spending this cycle will be 3.5%, adding up to about $381 million.

One reason for the increase is the electoral map, and that may have more changes. Following a widely panned debate performance by Biden, more states are seen to be in play. Recent polling shows that Trump has improved his odds of winning states including Minnesota, New Hampshire and Virginia, which have gone for Democrats in the past several election cycles. That could prompt a wave of spending in those states as the Biden campaign looks to shore up its support and Trump’s team looks to capitalize on Biden’s weakened position.

Beyond where money is being spent, AdImpact’s latest analysis also examines the messaging used by campaigns. It finds since that since the 2020 election cycle, abortion-related ads have soared. That was especially true following the June 2022 ruling by the Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision. Between July and Election Day 2022, AdImpact says Democratic advertisers aired 1,278% more abortion ads compared to Republican advertisers. And more broadly, since the 2020 election cycle, it says abortion-related ads have risen between both parties. AdImpact says Democratic abortion ads increased 29.3%, while Republican ads rose 2.1%.

One reason AdImpact boosted its political spending forecast is the potential presence of an abortion-related ballot initiative on state ballots. Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, New York and South Dakota have put abortion initiatives on the ballot so far, while Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska and Pennsylvania are still deciding whether to follow suit.

AdImpact looks to the past to decide how that could impact spending. During the past two years when similar abortion-related ballot initiatives were on the ballot in Ohio, Michigan, Kansas, Kentucky and Vermont, it calculates they resulted in a combined $135 million in advertising. It calls that “a strong indication” that if a state includes an initiative on its ballot this November, it will see an influx of additional political dollars in the coming months.

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