I think there will be a collective sigh of relief from the advertising world come next Wednesday, especially if you live in a coveted “swing state”. The campaign is set to spend a record $6 Billion in advertising – this is $700 Million more than the previous record set in 2008. This is partially due to the Supreme Court case (Citizen’s United), which lifted the ban on the ability of super PACs to spend unlimited amounts without disclosing their donors.
The spending from outside groups is expected to total more than $970 Million – 3x the previous record of $301 Million set in 2008 (prior to the Citizen’s United ruling). The majority of these dollars is spent on Television advertising, including cable, which local clients tend to flood because they can buy the zones that represent their districts, and it is the most effective way to reach the largest number of people in those areas. Online spending is also expected to reap the benefits of extra dollars – projecting a sixfold increase from 2008, up to $159.2 Million. This is still a drop in the bucket (1.5%), but spending for local races may go as high as 12% of a politician’s budget.
Political Spending in Baltimore
In our office, we’ve felt the ripple effect of the dollars being spent by candidates as well as “issue advertising”. Locally, the Baltimore market has seen an influx of outside spending on the issues known as Question 6, which would approve a law that allows same-sex couples to obtain a civil marriage license, and Question 7. Question 7 proposes a sixth casino in Maryland, as well as table games at all six sites. The pro-side has spent over $32 Million and not to be outdone, the Anti-Question 7 side spent over $33 Million. To put these figures into perspective, each side alone spent almost double what was spent on the last governor’s race in Maryland in 2010 ($17 Million).
Political Spending in Washington, DC
In Washington, the situation is worse because Virginia is a swing state and the DC market is important to Northern Virginia. Some of our clients opted not to advertise on TV for the whole quarter, knowing that once the election ended, airtime would still be in demand due to advertisers who wanted to wait until mid-November. Holiday retailers will also be spending more, and this would cause pricing to remain high.
A survey of 80 agencies conducted by Strata in October found that 47% of media buyers were planning to wait till after the election to place advertising for their clients.
Does political advertising really sway voters? My vote is “yes”, otherwise politicians and activist groups wouldn’t spend so much money to get just 6% of undecided voters to make up their minds. And, it seems that as the political battle gets nastier, it doesn’t seem to matter whether claims made by both parties are true or not. But take comfort in knowing that in 96 hours, it will all be over – unless of course we experience another 2000!!
This 4 year old girl from Colorado demonstrates how many of us are feeling: