AdImpact projects the 2023-2024 election cycle will be the most expensive of all time, totaling $10.2B in political expenditures across broadcast, cable, radio, satellite, digital, and CTV. This would represent a 13% increase over the previous record of $9.02B set during the 2019-2020 election cycle. Through August 2023 we have seen $652M and are pacing 75% ahead of 2019 and 16% ahead of 2021. The off-year of an election cycle traditionally receives between 10-14% of total spending for the two-year cycle.
Presidential spending is projected to receive $2.7B in political ad spending this cycle. The contested Republican primary coupled with a concentration on seven key general battleground states will drive spending in the category. Senate spending, projected at $2.1B, and House spending, projected at $1.7B, will be driven by razor-thin margins in both chambers as both parties vie for control of Congress. Gubernational spending is expected to see a predictable drop-off compared to the 2021-2022 election cycle at $400M as there are only 14 seats up for re-election. The area projected to see the most spending on political advertising is what we call “Downballot.” This category consists of all political spending that is not Presidential, House, Senate, or Gubernatorial and is expected to receive $3.3B.
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Background on the 2024 Presidential Election Cycle
One of the major drivers of spending in the 2023-2024 election cycle is the return of a Presidential election to the top of the ticket. The Presidential race is already off to record pace with Republican primary spending surpassing $100M by early September, faster than any previous cycle. The 2020 Democratic primary did not surpass $100M until October 2019 and the 2016 Republican primary did not surpass $100M until December 2015. With more than 120 days until the Iowa Caucuses, the well-funded and crowded field is expected to continue driving spending. We expect to see similar levels of spending in the general to the 2020 Presidential general as current polls indicate a rematch between President Biden and former President Trump could be on the horizon. General spending will be concentrated in seven key swing states: Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, and Wisconsin.
The competitive nature of the House and Senate maps will be a major factor in overall Congressional spending during the 2023-2024 cycle. Court-ordered redistricting has shifted the landscape of the House map and provided some races with the potential to be exceptionally more expensive than they have been historically. Previously safe Republican seats are now viewed as potential Democratic pickup opportunities, which has tightened the race for the House as they only need to flip 6 seats. The possibility of Democrats taking control is becoming more realistic outcome. An unfavorable Senate map for Democrats will also play a major role in political advertising spending. 23 seats held by Democrats are up for election compared to just 11 by Republicans. Several Democratic incumbents are running in more conservative states, such as Joe Manchin in West Virginia, Jon Tester in Montana, and Sherrod Brown in Ohio. Democratic Senate candidates will likely be on the defensive and will likely have to spend heavily to protect their slight majority. Gubernatorial elections are expected to receive much less focus this cycle, as only 14 seats are up this cycle compared to 38 in the 2021-2022 cycle.
Through the end of August 2023, the Downballot category has already seen nearly $440M in spending, pacing ahead of 2021’s 415M in 2019’s 238M over the same period. Abortion-related ballot measures will play a major role in Downballot spending this cycle. During the 2022 cycle, six states had abortion-related measures on the ballot with Michigan’s receiving nearly $50M in spending and Kanas’ seeing almost $14M Three states have already placed abortion-related measures on the ballot this Cycle: Ohio, New York, and Maryland. Ohio’s is the only measure that will be voted on this November and has seen more than $33M through the end of August. Seven states have proposals for an abortion-related measure to be placed on the ballot in 2024: Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota. If all the proposals make it to the ballot, Downballot spending could see a spike around this issue.
Political Media Advertising Background
Broadcast continues to be the dominant media type in political advertising as we project it to see over 50% of total cycle spend at $5.1B. Cable is projected to maintain its position as the media type receiving the second most spending with $1.9B, about 18% of overall spending. Spending on digital platforms such as Facebook and Google are utilized by campaigns and issue groups to reach a more target audience and as a major fundraising tool. From the 2020 Cycle to the 2022 Cycle, we saw a $700M drop-off in digital spending, from $1.7B to $1B with the absence of a President race at the top of the ticket. While we do not expect digital spending to return to 2020 levels, we do project to grow by nearly $100M during the 2024 Cycle.
To date in 2023, we have seen approximately $100M spent on Connected Television (CTV), or nearly 13% of the overall political spending landscape. We project CTV will total over $1.3B during the 2024 Cycle, a nearly $250M increase over the 2022 Cycle. This is a slight increase in share as CTV made up 12% of total spending during the 2022 Cycle. As voters continue to “cut the cord” and shift away from traditional forms of media, reaching them regardless of consumption habits has become a main goal of advertisers. We have seen rapid adoption of CTV advertising in the political advertising space and expect this category to continue to grow over the upcoming political cycles.
Political Spending Projections Methodology
We set out to build our projections from the ground up. Rather than dividing the topline numbers from previous years, we built a model to project spending at the individual race level and then rolled these numbers up to reach our topline conclusions. Spending levels in a race correlate strongly with the competitiveness of a seat, so we based our 2024 estimates on each seat’s previous spending levels and Cook Political Report’s race ratings (Lean D, Toss Up, Lean R etc.).
Historic spending levels come from our comprehensive database of political media expenditures. Our database includes $25B of spending, more than 15,000 elections, and 20 million ad airings. This baseline number is then adjusted by factors such as the price of a media market and candidate cash-on-hand reports. On average, a race in a very expensive market like Los Angeles, CA will see far more spending than a race in a cheaper market, such as Norfolk, VA, since it costs significantly more to reach the same relative audience levels.
These projections will also likely change as the landscape changes. Unexpected retirements, billionaire self-funders, strong fundraising, redistricting, and changes in the political winds can, and will, cause the spending landscape to shift. We will periodically update these projections as we see the political spending environment unfold.
AdImpact is a leading advertising intelligence (SaaS) company. We specialize in tracking and analyzing advertising data across various media channels, including traditional, digital, and emerging platforms. Our real-time monitoring captures over one billion TV ad occurrences daily. We maintain the industry’s largest ad catalog consisting of over 1.2m unique creatives. Our coverage extends across all 210 designated market areas (DMAs), over 41,000 zip codes, and across more than 20 million IP addresses. Currently, we capture data and analytics for over 88,000 brands and advertisers. Our reliable real-time data and analytics empower users to monitor competitor ad occurrences, spending, messaging, and creatives, facilitating quick and informed decision-making. To learn more about AdImpact’s capabilities, please visit www.adimpact.com or request a demo.