Numerous candidates are competing to be the next Mayor of New York City, but we have seen a surprisingly low ad spend so far for what is poised to be an expensive and hotly contested race. With Mayor Bill De Blasio absent from the field and the primary election only 74 days away there are over a dozen declared candidates, but we have only seen spending supporting three: Andrew Yang, Ray McGuire, and Shaun Donovan. All are vying for the democratic nomination. To date, we have recorded $6.36M in ad spend by campaigns and Super PACs across broadcast, satellite, cable, and digital media: $3.79M has been spent supporting Donovan; $2.54M supporting McGuire; and only $16K supporting Yang. While the spending supporting Donovan and McGuire has a diverse spread across all media types, Yang has exclusively spent on digital. Both Donovan and McGuire also have PACs spending on their behalf, while we have not yet seen a PAC spend supporting Yang, although Yang for New York, Inc has filed with the city’s election board.
New Start N.Y.C., a PAC supporting Donovan partially funded by his father, is the largest advertiser we have seen, spending nearly as much as the rest of the field combined. In a distant third is New York for Ray, a PAC supporting McGuire, spending $1.33M. Most surprisingly, Yang’s campaign is spending at levels far below his rivals, even as he leads in the polls.
After announcing his candidacy on January 14th, 2021, we would have anticipated Yang to have a more robust presence with his advertising. We are not certain why he has yet to start spending, although we can offer two explanations. Yang will either rapidly increase spending in the waning weeks of the primary or, feeling secure in his position as the frontrunner, will wait to start his more aggressive spends until the general. With the democratic nominee likely to win come November, we expect the spending to start sooner rather than later.
While we anticipate more candidates to show their spending muscle in the coming weeks and current candidates to add to their already large totals, there is no doubt the pandemic has dramatically altered the landscape of the contest. Unlike past election seasons, social distancing and remote campaigning has introduced a new barrier to candidates establishing the necessary name recognition needed to raise the funds required to run a competitive and successful campaign. The coming weeks will most likely see an avalanche of spending by viable and fringe candidates alike in a final dash to sway the minds of voters, over half of whom are undecided, before the June 22nd Primary.