The 2024 election cycle is projected to be the most expensive to date, with anticipated ad spending of $10.2 billion across all platforms.
In a new report, the ad tracking firm AdImpact said the election cycle covering the years 2023 and 2024 “will be the most expensive political cycle of all time, 13% higher than the 2019-2020 cycle’s record of $9.02 billion.”
Breaking down its projections, AdImpact said that it expected $2.7 billion to be spent on ads in the presidential race, which has already seen nearly $200 million in ad spending so far.
Several familiar battleground states would see a significant share of the ad spending, AdImpact predicted in its report.
“We expect spending in the Presidential general election to be concentrated on seven key states: Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, and Wisconsin,” the firm said.
AdImpact further projected $2.1 billion in ad spending on Senate races, $1.7 billion in ad spending on House contests, $361 million in ad spending for gubernatorial elections, and $3.3 billion spent on ads in various down-ballot races and other initiatives.
Control of Congress is on the line next year – with Republicans defending a narrow majority in the US House and Democrats attempting to maintain their slim margin in the US Senate.
Acknowledging the charged political climate, AdImpact said its projections were based in part “due to a highly contested Presidential election, razor-thin margins in Congress, and tremendous growth in the downballot category, which consists of all political spending that is not Presidential, House, Senate, or Gubernatorial.”
AdImpact also highlighted the influence of abortion-related ballot measures in driving up ad spending. Such ballot initiatives have been voted on in several states since the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year, with more anticipated this cycle. Ohio voters will weigh in this November on a proposal to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution, which comes after abortion rights advocates scored a critical victory on a separate measure this summer in what had been seen as a proxy battle over the November vote.
“Abortion-related ballot initiatives appear to be a major driver of political spending this cycle,” the firm wrote. “Ohio’s abortion-related ballot measures have already seen over $30M in 2023 and numerous other states are attempting to get the issue on the ballot in 2024. Election results and spending totals in Kansas during the 2022 cycle demonstrated that abortion can drive political advertising spending even in states considered safely red.”
Presidential ad spending dominates
So far this year, most of the ad dollars have flowed into the presidential contest. Through early September, campaigns and outside groups from both parties had combined to spend more than $200 million on advertising for the 2024 presidential race, including on reservations for the coming months.
Spending on the 2024 contest is also significantly ahead of the pace set during the 2020 presidential primary. Through the Labor Day weekend this year, about $121 million worth of presidential advertising had already aired; through the Labor Day weekend in 2019, that figure was around $60 million.
In the GOP race, super PACs aligned with five candidates – former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum – have dominated the ad spending landscape early in the cycle. Including past bookings and future reservations, those five entities have combined to spend about $120 million of a total of nearly $170 million spent on advertising in the GOP presidential primary so far.
Much of the ad spending to date has been concentrated in states with early nominating contests, especially Iowa and New Hampshire. Iowa voters have seen more than $37 million worth of advertising so far, while New Hampshire voters have seen nearly $22 million. Most of the big advertisers have largely split their budgets between the states, with a slight lean toward Iowa.
Several campaigns and outside groups have also poured money into national advertising campaigns. Leading the way is the Trump-aligned super PAC MAGA Inc., which has spent more than $18 million on national cable advertising so far. Never Back Down, the pro-DeSantis super PAC, has spent more than $6 million on national advertising.
On the Democratic side, the campaign of President Joe Biden recently announced plans to spend $25 million on early advertising for his reelection. So far, the campaign and an allied committee have combined to spend just over $10 million, according to AdImpact data. And complementing those efforts, Future Forward USA Action, the super PAC backing Biden, also recently ramped up its activity.
While Republican contenders are focused on the early primary states, the Biden campaign and its allies have the luxury of investing in general election battlegrounds. Hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of pro-Biden advertising has already aired in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada.
Biden’s network – campaign, allied committee and super PAC – has so far spent the most on ads in Pennsylvania, about $870,000, followed by Georgia at about $855,000 and Arizona at about $727,000.