The 2019-2020 Political Cycle in Review from AdImpact, formerly Advertising Analytics
During the 2019-2020 political cycle, $8.5B was spent on political advertising across television, digital, and radio. This bought 9.3 million TV ads in more than 4,300 Federal, state, and local races. The figure represents an astounding spending increase of 108% over the 2017-2018 cycle, which itself was a record-setting cycle. Fundraising, and consequently ad spending, flourished from the presidential level down to local races. Fears that Covid-19 would hurt campaign fundraising proved to be unfounded. However, the pandemic forced paid media advertising to the forefront of every campaign’s agenda since traditional face-to-face retail and grassroots politics were limited. More than ever, reaching Americans in their homes across a variety of consumable media was the key to persuading leaning or undecided voters. In 2020, advertising analytics metrics show that candidates spent more than ever to accomplish that goal.
Presidential spending was largely driven by the three highest spending political candidates of all time, Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, and Donald Trump. Spending in the general election mirrored past years and skyrocketed in September and October. The Senate smashed expectations this year and set a record for total spending. This largely due to eight of the ten most expensive Senate races ever, including the most expensive race of all time, North Carolina, and the highest spending Senate candidate of all time, Jamie Harrison. The House did not attract as much attention this year, but it also broke previous records for total spending in the category.
Ultimately, a hyper engaged electorate and record-breaking fundraising led to 2020 surpassing spending projections by nearly $2B, $8.5B to a projected $6.7B. The advertising analytics contained in this report detail where that money went, by media type and geography, and also assesses trends in messaging and spending for each race category.
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