Written by Ethan Mort

Is anyone in Illinois feeling déjà vu?  In 2018, the Illinois gubernatorial was the third most expensive race across the country at $126M spent. Now in 2022, the race has seen $136M, already surpassing the 2018 total, and making it the fourth most expensive race AdImpact has tracked so far this cycle.  This year’s primary spending has already surpassed the overall spending of the 2018 race, providing another potential indicator that 2022 elections will be record breaking. One of the largest changes in political advertising spending within the last four years has been the explosion of CTV/streaming spending.

The Illinois gubernatorial election demonstrated the rapidly increasing influence of CTV advertising. So far, $29M dollars have been spent on CTV marketing for this race, which is the second most CTV spending AdImpact has ever tracked. It is second only to the Internet Regulation Issue—which has seen $33M dollars.

Advertisers on both sides of the aisle have quickly learned how to adapt CTV spending into their marketing strategies. Billionaire incumbent J.B Pritzker has spent $5.9M on CTV, while the DGA has spent $5.2M. For the Republicans, mayor of Aurora, Richard Irvin, has spent $12.5M on CTV, a staggering total that has allowed him to barely outspend Pritzker in total spending: $44 million to $39M. Pritzker faces no opponent in the Democratic primary but has been spending to shore up his re-election odds since Summer of last year. Irvin’s ability to outspend Pritzker has mostly come off the backing of Chicago-based billionaire, Ken Griffin.

When including the DGA spending supporting Pritzker, the Democrats have a clear spending advantage in the race so far. Instead of bolstering Pritzker’s presence in the Land of Lincoln, the DGA has instead been bolstering the conservative credentials of Trump-endorsed Darren Bailey[NS7]  and labelling Irvin as soft on crime. This is in the hopes that Bailey will be an easier opponent for Pritzker to defeat in the General this fall. The DGA has utilized this strategy in Illinois before. In 2018, the DGA spent $500K to prop up the more conservative Jeanne Ives against incumbent Republican governor Bruce Rauner. “Democratic Colorado” is currently using a similar strategy ahead of the Colorado Senate Primary, as the advertiser is propping up Tom Hanks’ conservative resume over his more moderate opponent.

The DGA’s plan to bolster Bailey over Irvin in the Republican primary may be paying off as suggested by a recent poll, as Bailey leads Irvin by 15 points. In response to this polling, Irvin’s campaign spokeswoman announced they would be “reassessing [their] ad strategy”. Since that announcement, AdImpact tracked that Irvin immediately pulled out of most non-Chicago markets and his $4.7M per week flights quickly diminished to only $1.3 million.

Illinois gubernatorial election spending over time

The Windy City has been blown away by $74M in ad spending for the Illinois gubernatorial primary. The Chicago market saw more than six times the spending of the next most expensive market, Champaign-Springfield-Decatur. In all, 5 different Illinois markets saw at least $8.9M in spending.

As one of the most expensive primaries in the nation wraps up, it will be important to continue watching this race to see if spending will continue in the general. In the meantime, Illinois residents can enjoy a short break from seeing $136 million dollars' worth of ads on the airwaves.

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