Campaigns have spent more money on political advertising in this cycle than ever before – in less than a week until Election Day they have reached $8 billion.
About $6.5 billion was spent during the 2016 election cycle – a record at the time.
“Compared to previous cycles, this is simply amazing,” said Ben Taber, an account executive at Advertising Analytics, a company that tracks advertising spending, in an analysis of spending.
Advertising Analytics’ analysis shows that in this year’s presidential contest, approximately $3 million from the 2020 cycle was spent on TV, radio and digital ads. According to the Wesleyan Media Project, which also tracks campaign advertising spending, about half of that has been spent since April on the campaign between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump.
Wesleyan’s analysis, conducted in collaboration with the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, found that Trump’s campaign spent significantly more resources on digital advertising – 47 percent for the 29 percent of Biden – while the Biden campaign spent more of its budget on local cable advertising – 15 percent for the 3 percent of Trump’s campaign.
“The spending in this cycle is historic for many reasons,” said Michael Franz, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, in a statement. “Donald Trump spent almost as much on digital advertising as he did on television advertising. This could be due to a clever targeting of his campaign, or it could be seen as a sign of weakness, reflecting the campaign’s many fundraising appeals.
Biden’s $600 million has made him the highest-spending presidential candidate of all time, Taber said. Trump is the third highest at around $340 million, behind former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spent millions on his brief campaign for the Democratic nomination earlier this year.
Another $2 billion was spent on the Senate campaign – twice as much as for the 2018 Senate elections, according to Advertising Analytics’ review. Another $1.8 billion was spent on competitive elections to the House of Representatives.
“I think this year will be a long time of debate and investigation, if only because of the sheer amounts of money available to candidates,” said Rachel Haskins, a marketing manager at Advertising Analytics, in the analysis report.
The Democrats have outstripped the Republicans almost two to one in what Taber called the “tsunami of money” as they seek to win the presidency, gain a majority in the House of Representatives and gain control of the Senate.
“Their base is in flames,” he said. “If Biden wins, and the Democrats are heading a trifecta toward 2022, the corresponding spending could be seen on the Republican side.
Taber said the Senate number was particularly important because larger states where campaigning is traditionally more expensive, such as Florida or California, were not on the table this year.
“This is not what you would traditionally call a huge Senate year,” he said. “They’re not really in what is traditionally considered to be super expensive states.”