The 2022 midterm political season will generate $8.4 billion in local ad dollars, according to BIA Advisory Services’ updated political ad forecast. As has been the case for eons, local over-the-air TV will garner the largest share of those dollars (44%), followed by connected TV (CTV) in second place and over-the-air radio in third. But in a shakeup on the political ad landscape, CTV – which delivers digital ad targeting capabilities in a big screen environment – will outperform digital due to the loss of third-party cookies needed for targeted display, along with social media platform crackdowns.
“We're expecting CTV to attract some spinning away from what would otherwise have gone to social or paid search advertising, as it is such an engaging platform,” BIA Advisory Services Managing Director Rick Ducey told a webinar audience last week.
Behind that multi-billion-dollar pot of gold is a staggering number of mid-term races, including 34 U.S. Senate seats, all 435 House seats, 36 governorships, 27 secretaries of states, 27 state treasurers and 34 attorneys general. Further down the ballot, there are legislative contests in every state except Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia. There are also various county elections taking place throughout the country and Florida and California will have special elections.
Since many of these races include primaries ahead of the Nov. 8 general election vote, the campaign spending spigot is already open and flowing.
While scores of seats are at stake, analysts and political experts have handicapped the races that will be the most competitive and generate a disproportionately high level of ad spending. They include Senate races in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, and Wisconsin; along with governorships in Wisconsin, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Kansas, along with 15 crucial Hose races.
Political Ad Machine ‘Always Open For Business’
Unlike most major categories, political isn’t impacted by the economy.
“The factory in Washington doesn't shut down very often, it's always open for business,” Ducey said. “It's really good from a media perspective.”
Making the category even more lucrative for media owners is there are far more entities buying advertising that just the candidates themselves. “For every two people on the ballot, you're looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 advertisers and in some cases, more than that,” said Evan Tracey, Senior VP for Client Strategy at political ad agency National Media.
Tracey and Bud Jackson, owner of political advertising consultancy Jackson Media Group, agreed that TV remains the top choice for campaigns. And that approach isn’t likely to change in this election, they said during "Win the Ad Race: Insights from Political Advertising Experts,” presented by Marketron. Tracey, however, noted that radio plays an important role in the media mix. “I personally have always been a huge fan of radio and continue to be,” he said, pointing to its ability to reach voters in their cars and to target voter segments with specific radio formats. “Whether it's 18-to-24-year-old males listening to sports radio for their gambling tips, or news, traffic and weather, those are still really reliable ways to reach likely voters.”
At the same time, the two political consultants reminded the webinar audience that there is a deliberate pacing employed by ad buyers and radio is generally used later in the campaign to reach voters who don’t make up their minds until late in the game.
While TV remains the go-to medium, there are multiple factors that go into the media equation for political campaigns. “It depends on the media market, the costs, the race that you're running for your strategic objectives… In some races, even the congressional level and down, it has to be something else, because TV just isn't in their grasp in terms of being affordable,” Jackson explained.
With political campaigns often simply repurposing the last election playbook “adjusted for inflation,” as Tracey put it, super PACs are far more willing to trying something different. “They can take a few more risks, they can try and do some things that maybe candidates won't touch because it takes away from the core blocking and tackling,” Tracey said. “So, don't be afraid to look at some innovative and new things because there may be a super PAC out there that may say, ‘This might be worth a try.’”
He also said radio can do a better job marketing its audience to political ad buyers and making it easier to transact. And he urged radio to be patient. “That's one of those places where a lot of that late money will flow. And that late money is significant.”
Jackson singled out news/talk radio as a fertile ground to reach active voters. “People that are actually going to vote are more in tune with local news,” Jackson said.