Introducing AdImpact’s 2022 Cycle In Review Report
The 2021-2022 Midterm election cycle was a record-breaking year, becoming the most expensive midterm election on record and the second most expensive political cycle of all time, only second to the 2020 Presidential election. The final political advertising expenditure total for across all media types reached an unprecedented $8.9B. This total in ad dollars for a midterm election represents a historic milestone for political advertising spending. This is a 133% increase from the 2018 election and a 58% increase in comparison the non-Presidential spending from the 2020 election cycle.
AdImpact has compiled a report that looks back at the spending, messaging, implications, and other trends from 2022 election cycle. The report explores advertising activity in four non-presidential categories, House, Senate, Gubernatorial, and Down ballot spending. Down ballot includes all statewide races such as state legislatures, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and can range all the way down to county commissioner and school board elections. As well as spending driven by support and opposition for national and statewide issues, varying from abortion to regulations on tech companies, and state specific ballot initiatives and propositions. For example, in this election cycle, topics such as abortion not only drove spending but political messaging across the board.
Download our report to see the exact breakdown of spending throughout the nation, messaging trends and future implications.
BACKGROUND ON THE 2021-2022 CYCLE
In the 2020 cycle, spending reached an all-time high due to the highly competitive presidential election, as well as both parties attempting to gain or keep control of the House and Senate through tight margins. This rings true for 2022 as well, where spending reflected the competitive nature of the Senate, as the balance of power for the chamber could have been determined by an individual Senate election. In 2022 there was one less Senate seat up for grabs than in 2020, resulting in an overall decline in Senate spending from 2020 to 2022. 2020 also had the two competitive Senate elections in Georgia and two runoffs, while this year there was only one runoff race, which also accounted for this discrepancy in spending. Due to redistricting after the 2020 decennial census, Republicans saw a few bright spots of opportunity to flip the House, leading to an increase in spending on congressional races. For the 2022 Midterm elections the Cook Political Report’s final analysis on competitive house districts rated 35 different races as “toss-up”, while 19 others were still considered highly competitive with a “Lean-D, Lean-R” rating. In 2020, the final Cook Political Report rated 27 races as true tossups. Redistricting that occurred after the 2020 election also played a role in Congressional spending. Congressional districts were merged that would pit well-funded incumbents against each other during the primaries, or Congressional districts were redrawn in such a way that made them more competitive for the non-incumbent party to unseat their current representative. Competitive primaries were a large driver in advertising spending this cycle. We saw more spending earlier in the election cycle than other years on record, where 24% of this cycle’s spending was within the primaries. This is a three-percentage point increase from the 2020 cycle, where primary spending including Presidential made up 21% of the overall cycle’s spending. This shows the sheer increase in volume of spending for a midterm year, even excluding high ticket primaries in a presidential election such as the Iowa Caucus, New Hampshire Primary, and many more for Super Tuesday.
DRIVERS OF SPENDING IN 2022
Federal elections draw high amounts of spending for each election cycle. Uniquely for this election cycle we saw an increased amount of Downballot spending pertaining to national and statewide issues. $2.1B was spent in the Issue category, supporting, or opposing various ballot initiatives and propositions. In comparison to 2020 where the top 3 highest spending advertisers were all presidential candidates in Biden, Bloomberg, and Trump, this election cycle the advertisers that spent the most were all party-backed issue groups. Based off this, it’s no surprise to see how issue group spending drove political spending in 2022. Issue group spending increased by 20% between 2020 and 2022.
Another factor that drove political spending was a renewed focus on statewide political offices. As concerns about voter fraud and how elections are run following the 2020 election, political spending increased for Gubernatorial, Secretary of State, and State Legislature races across the country. In the 2020 cycle, Gubernatorial spending was the 6th most expensive political office but moved up in the rankings for the 2022 cycle as it was the 2nd most expensive political office based on advertising spending. Increased attention on the importance of Gubernatorial races and their competitiveness contributed to this recorded increase in spending, as well as the sheer volume of Gubernatorial races this cycle. In the 2022 cycle there were 38 Gubernatorial elections, a significant increase over the 14 that took place in the 2020 election cycle.
Another executive office, the Secretary of State, saw a total spending of $84M across all Secretary of State races in the country. This is a massive increase in ad spending of 1105% from the 2020 cycle where we recorded only $7M of spending on Secretary of State races. Similar to Gubernatorial elections, both offices were targeted for increased spending due to their role in administering elections, as well as an increase in races up for reelection in the 2022 cycle. In the 2020 cycle, there were merely seven Secretary of State elections, this cycle there were 27 Secretary of State elections. We saw increased spending for local officials up and down the ballot.
These midterm elections also saw a large uptick in spending on national and statewide issues. Surprisingly, we recorded more spending this year in the Issue category with advertisers influencing national issues and ballot initiatives this election cycle than we saw for overall total advertising spending on House races. There was a 66% increase in issue spending between the 2020 cycle and the 2022 cycle. This growth was driven in part by political ad spending on ballot propositions dealing with issues such as abortion, gambling, marijuana, among other issues. Spending across the nation on issues such as internet regulation, healthcare, and Biden’s economic recovery plans also drove issue spending.
AdImpact provides a multichannel view of the TV ad intelligence universe through real- time monitoring of linear television, local cable, and CTV at the DMA, Zip Code, and Household levels, allowing for deeply enriched data analysis.
AdImpact collects, analyzes, and reports on more than 21 billion TV ad impressions daily, in real-time, involving more than 60,000 brands and advertisers. Coverage includes all national broadcast networks, 1,100 local broadcasters, and more than 180 cable TV networks across all 210 Nielsen DMAs. AdImpact is the only media intelligence company with zip code level ad detection, with a dataset that contains more than 6,500 advertisers active in 5 DMAs or less. AdImpact also tracks digital ad spends, including more than 36,500 digital advertisers and publishers.
In the political sphere, AdImpact collects electoral ad spending and occurrences from the federal to the local level, leveraging the data to create user-friendly analytics for clients. AdImpact also collects rate-level data to provide deep insights and build rate forecasts to help buyers and media companies alike. AdImpact’s political data is trusted by a full spectrum of political experts: from presidential campaigns to top-tier news outlets.