Since Election Day, all eyes and broadcast advertising intelligence have been focused on Georgia to see where its 16 electoral votes will land this cycle. But the state’s hotly contested Senate races have begun to steal the national spotlight. With over 98% of precincts reported, no candidate in either contest secured 50% of the popular vote to win a seat in the upper chamber of Congress. Runoff elections are scheduled for January 5th, extending races that have already seen a combined $206M of political media spend by another nine weeks. Both runoffs are expected to experience a windfall of new spending. Democrats are working to capitalize on their last opportunity to provide President-elect Biden with a Democratically controlled Senate, and Republicans are competing to hold on to their majority.
Advertising Intelligence: Political Advertising Spotlight
Georgia Senate: Ossoff and Sen. Perdue
The Georgia Senate race between Sen. David Perdue (R) and Jon Ossoff (D) is already one of the most expensive of the 2020 cycle, with $149.3M spent between the primary and general elections. Nearly $79.6M was spent in support of Ossoff while over $69.7M was spent on Sen. Perdue’s reelection bid. Ossoff is no stranger to expensive campaigns decided by a runoff election. In 2017, he famously led a failed effort to flip Georgia’s traditionally Republican 6th Congressional District, spending nearly $55M in the most expensive House race in American History.
Throughout the primary and general elections, the Ossoff campaign spent $32.2M in their attempt to flip the seat, while the Perdue campaign spent $13.9M vying for reelection. We saw several outside groups spend on behalf of both candidates, but a few stand out for their exorbitant contributions. The largest to support Ossoff was Senate Majority PAC, (SMP) spending $27.8M. Duty and Honor PAC and Majority Forward were the next highest, contributing $9.2M and $4.6M, respectively. In addition, a bevy of other issue groups and PACs spent a total of $4.1M to aid Ossoff’s campaign. Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) contributed the most on ads supporting Sen. Perdue’s campaign, totaling nearly $36.8M in the general. One Nation and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) were the next highest, spending $9.7M and $3.7M, respectively. A collection of other advertisers contributed $5.4M to Sen. Perdue’s reelection campaign across the general and primary.
Political Advertising Analytics:
After officially capturing the Democratic nomination in the summer, Ossoff drastically increased his spending on political advertising. During his uncompetitive primary, (Ossoff won 52.82% of the vote in a field of 7), the campaign spent just over $2.6M from September 2019 to June 2020. Starting in July, the first spend during the general cycle, his campaign budgeted $1M on ads. They increased their monthly spend to $2M in August and $6.7M in September. As polls showed the contest tightening in October, the campaign substantially increased its monthly expenditure to $17.3M. During the final three days of the election, the campaign spent $2.2M.
Facing an uncontested primary, Sen. Perdue only allocated $132K toward political advertising in the first leg of his bid for reelection spanning January 2019 through June 2020. However, after officially securing the Republican nomination, the campaign substantially increased its spending, budgeting $1.4M in June alone. This trend continued throughout the summer with the campaign increasing its monthly expenditures to $1.6M in August and $2.2M in September. As the polls tightened in October, Sen. Perdue’s campaign more than tripled its spending from the previous month, allocating over $7.2M in media spend for October. The final three days of election saw another $1M spent.
SMP, Duty and Honor Pac, and Majority Forward began spending in the summer of 2020. SMP’s monthly expenditures followed a similar pattern to the Ossoff campaign: $2.67M in August, $6.3M in September, $16.4M in October, and $2.4M over the first three days in November. Duty and Honor focused their spending on the early stages of the general campaign, placing all $9.2M on ads airing in August, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the overall spend that month. Majority Forward allocated $3.2M of their total spend in July, parsing out the remaining $1.3M over the final months of the election. While ads supporting Ossoff were primarily run by his campaign, SMP, Duty and Honor PAC, and Majority Forward during the late summer, renewed attention came to his race as the contest tightened. Starting in the first week in October and continuing through election day, 12 new advertisers spent a combined $2.3M to help in Ossoff’s attempt to flip the seat.
Sen. Perdue’s campaign also experienced an influx of outside spending at the start of the general. In July, the NRSC dedicated nearly $2.8M to support the incumbent senator, accounting for more than half of the total $4.3M spent in the month. Spending by all advertisers rose to nearly $17.1M in August, with One Nation responsible for $9.7M, their entire spend for the election. SLF launched their first airings of the election with a $5M buy in the same month. NRSC also placed $610K in August, their last spend of the election. SLF more than doubled their total spend from the previous month in September, placing $11.4M on political advertising. A collection of other advertisers also either began or continued previous spending in September, totaling just under $2.3M. As the polls tightened in October, spending in support of Sen. Perdue grew sharply. Nearly doubling, the overall spend rose to $28.7M, with $18.5 provided by SLF and $2.8M coming from a large collective of other advertisers. Over the final days of the election in November, $3.1M was spent on Sen. Perdue’s reelection bid, $1.7M of which came from SLF.
Campaign Media Analysis: Post Race Wrap up
After the race was officially sent to a runoff on November 6th, there was no hesitation by advertisers to begin spending. To date, $80.1M has already been spent, $42.9M by Democratic advertisers and $37.2M by Republican advertisers, the first ads airing on November 7th. Both campaigns have booked their spending through election day on January 5th, with Ossoff’s media spend outpacing Perdue’s by $38.8M to $29M. We expect them to add to their current totals before the runoff is over.
Outside advertisers have also started aggressively spending in support of both candidates. So far, we have seen spending by two supporting the Ossoff campaign: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and The Georgia Way. The DSCC has placed $1.8M on ads set to air in the last week of December and first week in January. The Georgia Way, a SuperPAC affiliated with SMP, has spent $2.2M on ads set to air November 18th through November 24th. We fully expect both groups to add to their current totals in the coming weeks.
To date, we have noticed nine outside advertisers supporting the Perdue Campaign: SLF, NRSC, NRA Victory Fund, Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth Action, Let’s Get to Work PAC, Senate Georgia Battleground Fund, Freedom Works for America, and America’s PAC. They have collectively spent $8.2M on ads set to run through the runoff. SLF has placed $4.5M on ads set to air November 17th through November 23rd, while NRSC has budgeted nearly $2M on ads set to air throughout December and January. We fully anticipate the overall spending from these outside groups to increase as January 5th approaches.
In the runoff between Jon Ossoff and Sen. David Perdue, we have already tracked a combined $71.5M in the two weeks after the race was officially extended. There are 46 days until the Peach State goes back to the polls and we fully expect this number to substantially grow as both campaigns and PACs attempt to convince voters to provide their party with control of the Senate.