As the presidential race heats up at the close of 2019, and as Democrats work to distinguish themselves as unique and competitive candidates in what has been a very congested race so far, Senators Warren and Sanders have established themselves as serious contenders, both in funds and media coverage.

Both candidates have spoken about their left-leaning stances on universal healthcare, economic reform, and climate change and have presented themselves as the more liberal alternative to moderates such as Biden or Buttigieg.

But how have they distinguished themselves from each other?

Broadcast Advertising Intelligence and Digital Advertising Intelligence Spending:

  • Sanders has spent more overall, about $8.6 million on broadcast advertising and cable ads and $7 million on Facebook and google, with a total of approximately $16.5 million.
  • Warren’s broadcast spending is smaller, just over $2 million on broadcast and cable; however, her campaign has invested more on digital, out-spending Sanders by $1 million. Warren’s campaign spending total is about $10.7 million so far.

Airings and Views:

  • The Sanders campaign has reached over 11,976 tv spots with a total GRP of 4,700 for viewers age 35 and up, and 6,300 for viewers 55+. His strategy is leaning heavily on the reach of national broadcast.
  • Warren’s broadcast ads have aired about 2,400 times with a total GRP of 2,975 for viewers age 35+. Her campaign had a very narrow target for broadcast, airing only in Iowa markets and during early morning dayparts, and focusing most of the budget on digital spending.

Target Audience:

  • The eight ads from the Sanders campaign have broadcast most often in Iowa markets, with two ads directly addressing Sanders’ plan for Iowa and its farmers, along with airings in Boston, Maine, and the state of New York. In order to reach the rest of the country, Sanders has aired five ads at the national level, too. Sanders’ campaign seems to be reaching a slightly older crowd, with most spots airing during morning shows, daytime tv, and evening programs like Jeopardy and Family Feud.
  • Warren’s six broadcast ads have aired exclusively in Iowa markets, primarily on morning shows and a few late-night talk shows. Her campaign has used a digital-heavy strategy to cover more ground in the rest of the country. By spending the majority of her budget on digital ads, many of which outline her plan to decrease student debt and increase access to education, as well as airing broadcast ads during shows like Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel Live, Warren’s campaign seems to be making a more targeted effort to reach a younger audience.

Messaging and Tone:

  • Sanders takes a slightly more aggressive stance, establishing himself as a fighter – the toughest candidate who is most prepared to fight the corrupt economic establishment and its ties to the White House. His ads present his targets issues such as social security, climate change, and healthcare as dire emergencies which need to be righted, and they lean very heavily on his anti-corporation and anti-corruption stance. Two ads, which target Iowa markets specifically, address the needs of the state’s farmers and energy resources and present Sanders as the hero of the everyman.
  • The Warren Campaign targets very similar issues – social security, economic reform, and climate change – but focuses more on the specific details of the Senator’s solutions, such as her tax plan to give more funding to Social Security. The ads rely on the pathos of Warren’s personal experiences both with hardship and her career journey to connect with the most pressing needs of her audience, including access to education and the weight of student debt and predatory lending. She cites her long history of fighting against big banks and corporations since the 2008 financial crisis as proof that she can accomplish what she promises.


Ultimately, very little separates these two dominant candidates other than a few key points: Warren’s focus on student debt, Sanders’ press for universal healthcare, and where they’ve chosen to spend their money. The coming months will decide whether airing national broadcast ads or spending big on digital will ultimately win out as the best strategy for reaching the nation and bringing one candidate into the lead.

Please note, the data in this post is current as of 9:45am Eastern Time on Monday, December 16 2019.

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