Trump just dropped nearly $100 million on fall TV campaign ads in swing states
Editor’s note: This post includes spending data analysis by Ad Age Datacenter Director of Data Management Kevin Brown, with web production by Corey Holmes. Scroll down to see the chart.
Memo to Joe Biden and media consumers in swing states: Brace yourselves.
Here’s what they—and you—need to know:
• In the biggest, most dramatic outlay on political advertising in the 2020 presidential election cycle since the free-spending Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer primary-season glory days, President Donald Trump’s campaign just dropped $99.7 million on TV advertising across Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona, according to the latest Ad Age Campaign Ad Scorecard analysis—an ongoing project led by Ad Age Datacenter Director of Data Management Kevin Brown in partnership with Kantar/CMAG.
• The buys are advance bookings—essentially prepaid reservations of airtime—for Labor Day through Election Day.
• The spending spree came fast and furious, Brown says, with $95.9 million in ads booked across the six states on Monday alone—and then, for good measure, another $3.8 million plowed into Florida on Tuesday.
• Of the $99.7 million outlay, 37.6 percent is going to Florida.
• With TV (broadcast and cable), we’re talking about finite inventory—which is why so much advance spending tends to happen in the final months of big campaigns. (If you don’t buy now, you might pay more later—and some TV markets might be entirely sold out during the most desirable dayparts and across the most coveted demographics.) Ad Age Campaign Ad Scorecard has also been tracking digital spending across Google and Facebook properties, but advance spending on those platforms isn’t information that’s typically made publicly available—although we do know of one big, high-profile advance digital buy by the Trump campaign: “Trump Ads Will Take Over YouTube’s Homepage on Election Day,” as Bloomberg News reported in February. (The terms and scope of that buy remain unclear.)
• As we also noted in our previous Ad Age Campaign Ad Scorecard, the Trump campaign is far ahead of Biden in deploying digital advertising across Facebook and Google properties. We’re currently updating those figures, but as of our June 16 CAS tally, Trump had spent $52 million combined on tracked digital—largely in the form of fundraising appeals directed as his base—while Biden stood at $23 million.
• The new TV bookings mean that Trump has overtaken Biden in the campaign ad game. In our previous CAS, we noted that “Biden’s campaign has more overall booked advance spending—$76 million—from June 16 through Election Day, vs. the Trump campaign’s $26 million over the same time period. That, of course, could change at any moment.” And indeed it did.
• So far, Team Biden has made only modest additional advance campaign ad buys—for instance, a June 29 booking of $3 million in TV ads that will begin running next week.
• It’s worth noting that we saw this coming. In a February installment of Campaign Ad Scorecard, when the primary season was still in full swing, we noted that “What’s becoming clear is that Trump can conserve his ad firepower ... while the Democrats eat themselves. ... Once a clear Democratic front-runner emerges—or perhaps right after the nominee is formally named on the last day of the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee on July 16—Team Trump can devote tens of millions, or possibly hundreds of millions, to targeting said challenger with attack ads.”
• Some additional recent context (as of the latest Federal Election Commission filings made public on June 20), via The Wall Street Journal: “Joe Biden Topped Donald Trump in May Fundraising” (subhead: “Biden’s haul outpaced Obama’s re-election fundraising in the same month in 2012 by about $20 million”).
So, you know, stay tuned.