Why Mike Bloomberg may just be pro-inflation
Editor’s note: Ad Age’s Campaign Scorecard is taking a deep dive into political ad spending across federal-level and gubernatorial races throughout the 2019-20 political cycle. Dive even deeper at AdAge.com/CampaignTrail.
In these divided times, Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, is proving to be something of a unifier. Political operatives, media observers and citizens across the land have been reacting to the news that he’s likely to enter the 2020 presidential race with a remarkable degree of unanimity.
Consider some of the headlines in the wake of word that he was filing to be eligible for the Democratic presidential primary in Alabama (a state with a particularly early paperwork deadline): “Biden allies shrug off Bloomberg bid as ‘laughable,’” according to The Hill. “Majority of New Hampshire primary voters give thumbs down to Bloomberg,” via the New York Post, citing a Quinnipiac University survey. And “Bloomberg’s potential run is a flop with voters so far,” per Politico, citing a Morning Consult poll.
As Morning Consult notes, “Bloomberg does have baggage, with a quarter of likely Democratic primary voters expressing unfavorable views of him—higher than any of the 15 candidates currently in the race.”
What can a presidential wannabe do with that sort of preemptive consensus? Attempt to buy his way out of it, or around it, of course, with advertising.
Forbes estimates that the media mogul is worth $53 billion, give or take. Or as Republican pollster Frank Luntz put it on CNBC: “Mike Bloomberg has more money than God,” which is why Luntz is taking his potential entry into the race seriously. (In God we trust.) Luntz is not alone in anticipating a Bloomberg ad blitz of epic proportions—and we’ve got a couple of historical precedents to serve as guidance.
The first is the fact that Bloomberg dropped $5 million on (mostly) TV ads last November at the last minute to boost Democratic candidates, which propelled his total political ad spending over the $100 million mark in the 2018 cycle.
The second is that the current election cycle is already seeing ad spending bloated by a billionaire. Per the most recent Ad Age Datacenter analysis in partnership with Kantar/CMAG, presidential candidate Tom Steyer, the California hedge fund boss, has from the start of his campaign on July 9 spent an astonishing $53.5 million (through Nov. 14, including advance bookings) on TV and radio ads. He’s spent another $11 million on Facebook ads according to the social network’s own accounting, for a total of $64.5 million—dwarfing the ad spend of the likes of Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg.
And Steyer, keep in mind, is worth a measly $1.6 billion.
Perhaps the sharpest insight so far regarding the potential repercussions of a Bloomberg run comes from current (low-polling and low-spending) Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang: “It’s probably going to change the price of advertising in some of the early states,” the mere millionaire told CNN.
Indeed. Which is why Datacenter took a look at the action so far in said states. Steyer is, yes, the biggest spender by far, having blown through $33.9 million in TV/radio ad spending in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina combined. Warren lands in second place with $7.6 million—$3.3 million of that in Iowa alone—overshadowing tenuous national poll front-runner Biden. (President Trump, it’s worth noting, has been spending relatively modestly in these specific states, saving most of his firepower for national advertising.)
All told, some $61.5 million has been spent on TV and radio advertising in those four states to date by the six leading Democratic candidates and the Republican president. (We’ll have a separate report on digital spending in the next issue, but for now we’re focusing on still-dominant traitional broadcast media with finite inventory.)
Enter Bloomberg, whose popularity among heartland TV and radio station owners, at least, has surely never been higher.
Let the real campaign ad spending race begin.
Ad Age Datacenter is Kevin Brown, Bradley Johnson and Catherine Wolf