The latest numbers from the Ad Age Datacenter analysis of political ad spending continue to underscore the unprecedented nature of the 2020 election cycle, with two billionaires — one of whom is among America’s 10 wealthiest people, with a personal net worth pushing $60 billion — driving the spending into uncharted territory.
The analysis, which was conducted in partnership with Kantar/CMAG, shows that former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer have between them accounted for more than three quarters of the overall spending on television and radio.
Bloomberg ($153 million) and Steyer ($118.2 million) have dropped a combined $271.2 million. The billionaires’ joint spending represents 75.6% of the $358.7 million that’s been spent by the entire presidential field to date, including the candidates who have already folded up their tents.
President Trump ($18.8 million) is the third-highest TV/radio spender, and his campaign said earlier this month that it has more than $100 million at its disposal, with almost half of the total raised in the final quarter of last year alone.
The president is followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders ($14.8 million) and South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg ($11.4 million). All other candidates to date have spent a combined $42.5 million. Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden failed to crack the top five.
Ad Age’s report notes that the top 5 spenders on TV and radio have already spent nearly $316 million, representing 88% of the overall total.
The latest political advertising spending total, well on its way to a half-billion dollars and beyond, doesn’t include a huge share for radio. Kantar VP Steve Passwaiter, who is responsible for general oversight of the Kantar Media CMAG business unit, tells Inside Radio via email that radio’s piece of the overall pie is about 1.5%.
Radio, however, typically performs better with local and state elections than the presidential race.
The latest totals exclude digital. They do include broadcast television, local/regional cable and satellite TV, radio and Spanish-language local TV.
How high the ultimate total goes, in all likelihood, will largely depend on Bloomberg’s willingness to keep the cash flowing. With a reported net worth of $59.5 billion (according to Forbes, as of Tuesday), he’s operating with a personal war chest that’s unprecedented in the history of U.S. presidential campaigns.
Advertising Analytics projects Bloomberg could end up spending $300 million to $400 million on advertising in all media before Super Tuesday. “With his $153 million outlay on TV and radio ads, and $7 million for Facebook so far,” Ad Age’s report says, “Bloomberg has singlehandedly exceeded the entire 2019 budget of the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts ($155 million).”
The latest totals arrive against the backdrop of dueling 60-second Super Bowl ads — one purchased by Bloomberg, the other by Trump — that cost an estimated $10 million. It’s a windfall for Fox, which will broadcast Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2.