The Political Pulse: New Ad Spending Patterns in 2024

Jul 9, 2024

July 2024 edition of The Political Pulse from Locality

Revitalize your understanding of the intersection between politics and advertising with The Political Pulse. Dive into the intricate dynamics of the 2024 election as we dissect its influence on media expenditure in pivotal U.S. markets. Enjoy our July 2024 issue.

Primary Battlegrounds

Ad Spending Intensifies In Remaining States with Primaries

As the 2024 election cycle intensifies, political ad spending is set to surge in key states such as Arizona, Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin. These States are poised to play pivotal roles with Federal and state campaigns gearing up for intense Primary election competition. In addition, with 18 state primaries still remaining—over 1/3 of the country(!)—the competition for voter attention and support will continue to ramp up, making strategic local ad placements and messaging crucial for success.

Arizona, known for its diverse electorate and swing-state status, has already seen $136.3M of political ad spending placed to date, according to AdImpact. We anticipate more significant investments in Arizona as candidates and ballot initiatives vie to capture crucial votes. Florida, once famously known as a battleground State that seemed out of contention this year, returns to the field with a surprisingly competitive U.S. Senate race and two hot-button ballot initiatives attracting substantial ad spending as well. Spending is only beginning with $17.5M in political ads spent in this State thus far, but that amount is expected to grow quickly as we finish up the cycle.

In Michigan ($159.8M spent to date) and Wisconsin ($101.7M spent to date), both pivotal States, the focus will be on appealing to elusive swing voters as the campaigns navigate complex political landscapes. These two States in particular, which have been won and lost by the slimmest of margins in recent Presidential, U.S. Senate, and state-level elections, remain highly contested battlegrounds where every local advertising dollar spent could sway undecided voters.

Locality anticipates a flurry of ad spending in these States as candidates seek to gain an early advantage. The chart below lists total political ad spending by States with remaining primaries and the biggest campaign ad spenders to date:

Political Ad Spending in 18 States with Remaining Primaries in 2024. These states include Arizona (7/30/24), Tennessee (8/1/24), Kansas (8/6/24), Michigan (8/6/24), Missouri (8/6/24), Washington (8/6/24), Hawaii (8/10/24), Connecticut (8/13/24), Minnesota (8/13/24), Vermont (8/13/24), Wisconsin (8/13/24), Alaska (8/20/24), Florida (8/20/24), Wyoming (8/20/24), Delaware (9/3/24), New Hampshire (9/10/24), Rhode Island (9/10/24), and Massachusetts (9/17/24).Source: AdImpact, 2024; Spending includes Broadcast, Streaming, Cable, Satellite, and Radio.

Political Ad Spending in 18 States with Remaining Primaries in 2024

A Spending Shift Towards Senate Races and Ballot Initiatives

Currently, a notable shift is occurring in the allocation of political ad spending, with U.S. Senate races and ballot initiatives commanding a larger share than in previous Presidential election years. Traditionally, Presidential campaigns have dominated political ad expenditures, representing about one-third of total activity during the 2020 election cycle. However, this cycle indicates a departure from that norm as Presidential ad spending is hovering around only 19% year-to-date, making this election cycle seem more like a mid-term election.

“The Senate races are really powering the spend right now,” says Mica Hansen, Locality’s EVP, Director of Political Sales, highlighting the significant investment in these contests. For instance, the Ohio Senate race, featuring a competitive GOP primary and a toss-up general election, has so far reported a staggering $197 million in broadcast spending and placements alone. In contrast, Presidential broadcast spending to date across ALL states and markets stands at $282 million.

Overall, Senate spending and placements have already surpassed $1.1 billion this year, emphasizing the high stakes and competitive nature of these races. Interestingly, Georgia is currently seeing Presidential spending exclusively, further underscoring the divergent strategies at play State-to-State and the need for every political campaign to have a specific local marketing strategy to secure victory.

This shift suggests a recalibration of campaign priorities, with more resources being directed towards U.S. Senate races and ballot initiatives, reflecting their critical importance in shaping legislative outcomes. As the election cycle progresses, it remains to be seen whether this trend will persist, potentially redefining the landscape of political ad spending.

The chart below, using AdImpact’s data, compares the share of political ad spending by race type—Presidential, U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Gubernatorial, and Ballot Initiatives—in CY 2020, CY 2022, and YTD 2024:

Election Cycle Political Ad Spending Comparison by Race Type CY 2020, CY 2022, and YTD 2024. The chart shows that so far in the 2024 election cycle, a larger proportion of spending has occurred on ballot initiatives and the U.S. Senate and House races than in the 2020 election cycle. Meanwhile, the proportion of spending on the Presidential race as of 7/8/24 has only been 19% of all election spending compared to 34% during the 2020 election cycle. Source: AdImpact.

Election Cycle Political Ad Spending Comparison by Race Type CY 2020, CY 2022, and YTD 2024.

Senate Surge: A Closer Look

As the 2024 election approaches, political ad spending for U.S. Senate races in ten key battleground states—Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin—is reaching unprecedented levels. These States are critical for determining the balance of power in the Senate, and both parties are investing heavily to sway voters.

Republicans need to gain just one or two seats to reclaim a majority in the U.S. Senate, depending on which party wins the White House, making these races particularly high-stakes. In Arizona ($59.6M spent to date) and Nevada ($89.9M spent to date), the growing and diverse populations are being targeted by Senate candidates with tailored messaging aimed at key demographic groups.

Meanwhile, States like Michigan ($61.1M spent to date), Ohio ($286.7M spent to date), Pennsylvania ($178.6M spent to date), and Wisconsin ($84.5M spent to date), with their mix of urban and rural voters, are battlegrounds where local ad spending is expected to intensify. The competitive nature of these races is driving significant investments in local broadcast, digital / streaming, and grassroots campaigns.

In Montana ($187.6M spent to date) and Maryland ($53.3M spent to date), traditionally less competitive for Senate races, the shifting political dynamics have prompted a surge in spending to address emerging electoral challenges. Overall, the push to control the Senate is leading to a record-breaking influx of political ads in these ten battleground States, making this one of the most expensive and closely watched election cycles in recent history.

Political Ad Spending in 10 Battleground States with Competitive U.S. Senate Races. These states include Arizona ($59.6M), Florida ($7.2M), Maryland ($53.3M), Michigan ($61.1M), Montana ($187.6M), Nevada ($89.9M), Ohio ($286.7M), Pennsylvania ($178.6M), Texas ($17.8M), and Wisconsin ($84.5M). Sources: 2024 Cook Political Report Senate Race Rankings; AdImpact, 2024; Spending includes Local Broadcast, Streaming, Cable, Satellite, and Radio.

Political Ad Spending in 10 Battleground States with Competitive U.S. Senate Races.

At Locality, we are tracking every race, every ballot initiative, and many more 2024 election cycle moments that will impact ad spending across local TV and streaming. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss local advertising solutions for your campaigns. We’re always happy to chat about Politics.

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