Written by Maddie Ebner and Josh Fried

Digital political ad spending, specifically on Facebook and Google’s online platforms, has been one of the fastest-growing media types over the past two years. The ability to reach younger demographics, coupled with the advantages of microtargeting, has made Facebook and Google popular mediums for political advertising. At AdImpact, we have seen digital political ad spend on Facebook and Google ad campaigns across various races within the past year. Three race categories stand out for having remarkably high spending in the 2022 election cycle so far: Issue Groups, Governors Races, and Senate Races. 

Digital political ad spend on various issues has skyrocketed in the past year. The top 5 issue categories in 2022 have attracted over $103M of spending on Facebook and Google’s advertising platforms alone! Our Fundraising category tracks how much Democrat and Republican candidates are spending on digital ad campaigns aiming to drive up donations and boost campaign finances before election day. At $47.8M, Fundraising is our largest issue category of digital spending in 2022 by a large margin. The spending breakdown by party in the Fundraising category is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans (53% Democrat; 44% Republican). This is a very different trend from the spending in the 5th largest category, Internet Regulation, where 93% of the spending is on “Anti-Internet Regulation” ads that lean conservative.

The issue group with the second largest amount of digital spending is the California Proposition 27 group. So far in 2022, both the advocates and opponents of California’s Proposition 27 have spent $21.5M collectively on Google and Facebook ads. If passed, Proposition 27 would legalize online sports betting across the entire state of California, where currently, the rights to gambling and its revenues are given exclusively to Native American tribes. The Proposition will require Native Tribes and Gambling companies alike to contribute a part of online sports betting revenues to the state’s fund for mental health and homelessness solutions, according to California Legislative Analyst’s office. The digital spending on CA Proposition 27 is unprecedented for both ballot measures and elections in general. CA Prop 27 is right behind the Georgia Senate Race (about $24M) as one of the largest digital spending categories in 2022.

The 2022 Georgia Senate Race stands out for attracting some of the biggest digital spenders in this election cycle. On November 8th, voters will decide whether incumbent Democrat, Raphael Warnock, will keep or lose his seat in the U.S. Senate to Republican Hershel Walker. So far, we have seen over $24M spent on the 2022 Georgia Senate Race on digital platforms alone.  

This ad from One Nation can be found here

Of the GA Senate digital spending, Warnock (D) has spent the most at $13.8M. The highest Republican spender is the issue group One Nation which has spent almost $3M in favor of Walker.  Walker's campaign is not far behind, spending $2.4M. One Nation’s widespread digital presence on Facebook and Google floods the platforms with various ad campaigns attacking Warnock for his support of “reckless spending” and his handling of inflation.  Many of One Nation’s digital ads include testimonials from voters remarking on their concerns about the economy or certain legislation. In the ad below, a Georgia voter expresses concern about Senator Warnock’s vote on the American Rescue Plan. 

This ad from One Nation can be found here

Overall, Democrats have a big digital political ad spend advantage over Democrats in the GA Senate race, and similar trends are also playing out in Arizona. Mark Kelly has spent almost $7.5M so far on Facebook and Google, while One Nation has also spent $697KK in support of the Republican candidate for Senate Bale Masters. Not far behind is the NRSC, which has placed $300k in support of Blake Masters for the 2022 election.

Digital Political Ad Spend for Governor's Races

Democrats are being outspent by Republicans in the digital category in the most competitive Senate Races, the Governor's races are telling a similar story. So far, we have tracked over $19M of digital spending on the IL Governor’s race. That is almost 2 times more than the FL Governor’s race which has only $10M in digital spending. One advertiser that stands out in the IL Governor’s race for their unprecedented digital spending is J.B. Pritzker.

Pritzker has spent almost $14M on digital ads in the Illinois Governor's Race so far. That’s over $10M more than Republican Primary Candidate, Richard Irvin. Of Pritzker's spending, $10M was placed on google digital ads and $4M was on Facebook. The Pritzker campaign uses digital platforms to air his opposition to Abortion Bans to win over voters. In the ad below, which aired on September 8, 2022, Pritzker claims his opponent, Darren Bailey (R), wants to ban abortion with no exceptions.

We estimate that this Google video advertisement cost Pritzker about $3,000 and reached approximately 1.3M viewers within only 5 days of airing.

Pritzker’s digital outreach strategy is not an accident. As younger voters turn away from traditional forms of media such as broadcast, cable, radio, and satellite; digital media has become the best way to reach younger generations of voters as candidates can sneak advertisements onto their social media feeds for a low cost. Pritzker’s campaign continues to increase its digital spending as we get closer to election day.

Republican candidate for Ohio Senate, J.D. Vance, has concentrated his digital advertising efforts almost entirely on Google’s platforms. So far, Vance has spent $455K on Google Search Engine ads and YouTube Video ads over the past 2 years. Google advertising is the dominant strategy for Vance in comparison to the $23k he spent on Facebook ads.Other Republican candidates are taking a different approach. Ron DeSantis, the incumbent Governor of Florida, concentrates his digital advertising efforts almost entirely on Facebook. He has already spent $4.8M on Facebook’s digital advertising platform leading up to his election. Only $147k of DeSantis’ digital ad spend was placed on Google.J.D. Vance and Ron DeSantis are approaching election day with different digital advertising strategies. One thing is clear, however: Whether advertising on Google or Facebook, digital advertising is only trending upwards.

Spending on Facebook and Google political advertisements is trending upward as digital advertising becomes frequent practice in modern-day campaigning. Facebook’s spending includes ads placed on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Historically, they have been the largest source of digital political ad spend, but recent data is trending towards a convergence between Google and Facebook’s spending.

2021 digital spending peaked in October at $26M and $10M for Facebook and Google, respectively. The October 2022 spending leading up to the Midterm elections is on track to surpass the previous year’s peak, potentially doubling the 2021 digital spend. 23 out of 52 State Primary elections occurring throughout May and first 2 weeks of June drove Facebook spending to its current 2022 peak of $37M in May. While digital spending on Facebook has fallen since the May and June primaries, Google has experienced a sharp increase in spending. The increase in spending from July 2022 to August 2022 was $9M in just one month! In August 2022, Google spending surpassed Facebook and became the largest source of digital spending for the first time in our historical data, and by only a $780K margin ($26.43M on Google, $25.65 on Facebook total spending for August 2022). Facebook spending continued to plateau in September while Google surged again, adding another $16M in spending in one month, officially peaking at $46M for September alone. In October 2021, Google spending peaked at only $10M! We expect digital spending to follow the same pattern in as it did in 2021, and has the potential to double what we saw in October of 2021, a non federal election year.

Digital spending will have a profound impact on the outcomes of the upcoming 2022 elections and all elections to come. Advertisers are now able to engage, inform, and directly interact with individuals in an unprecedented way, and it's causing major disruptions in the political landscape. We expect digital sources to remain the fastest-growing media type in political advertising for the near future.

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