And the winner of the election is ... well, Fox News, for one. That’s a key takeaway from this, the penultimate pre-Election Day edition of Ad Age Campaign Ad Scorecard—an ongoing project led by Ad Age Datacenter Director of Data Management Kevin Brown in partnership with Kantar/CMAG. Since Jan. 1, 2019, we’ve been tracking campaign ad spending across the presidential, U.S. Senate, congressional and gubernatorial races in an attempt to make sense of the marketing machine of American politics.
In the final stretch of the election season, here’s what you need to know:
Campaign advertising has been the media’s own stimulus/rescue plan
As Ad Age first reported in early September, overall media spending in the first half of 2020 was down 19% compared to the same period in 2019, according to Kantar, thanks to the pandemic recession. Campaign advertising, though, has been a blazing bright spot for the bottom lines of a number of media companies. There was, of course, no major election cycle in 2019, so the year-over-year data is obviously skewed, but Kantar’s “government, politics and religion” category increased 47% during the first half. And all indications are that, when all is said and done, we’ll have seen record campaign ad spending across the entire 2019-2020 election cycle.
Even digital advertising avails can be weirdly scarce
We’re used to the idea that traditional measured media—TV and radio—has finite inventory. But as Bloomberg News reported last week, “At times, YouTube is so inundated with election ads that it has been unable to place as much as three quarters of the amounts campaigns would like to spend on a given day.”
The (real) winners circle
In the previous Campaign Ad Scorecard, we noted the Democrats had, as of mid-October, outspent Republicans in pursuit of the White House: $1.89 billion vs. $674 million, as tracked by Ad Age Datacenter (with the Democrats’ tally crazily skewed by the presence of free-spending billionaires Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer during primary season). We’ll know soon whether that was money well spent or wasted.
But right now we can definitively name some of the real winners: TV networks—mostly a handful of traditional broadcasters and cable giants—and some very lucky local affiliates in swing states.