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The 2021-22 Midterm Election Cycle Is Forecast To Set A Record For Political Ad Dollars

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at August 12, 2021

With a polarized political landscape, some contentious primary fights anticipated and a combative fight ahead for control of Congress, AdImpact projects the 2021-22 election cycle will set a record in political ad spend at $8.9 billion for a midterm election. This is an increase of 244% from the nearly $4 billion spent in 2017-18 cycle and will be comparable to the $9.0 billion spent in the 2020 cycle. The projected dollar amount is an indication of how important midterm elections will be for both parties.

For the 2022 midterm election there will be statewide 34 U.S. Senate elections and 36 gubernatorial elections up for grabs. In addition, elections will be held for all 435 House of Representatives seats as well as numerous down ballot elections.

By Medium: Although broadcast television is expected to remain the most important medium for political ad dollars, more and more are investing in digital media as the industry fragments. In the 2021-22 cycle broadcast television, at $4.6 billion, will account for slightly over half of all ad dollars spent. The figure however, is below the 59% ($5.3 billion) allocated to broadcast television for the 2019-20 cycle. For the 2017-18 cycle, 75% of all ad dollars had been earmarked for broadcast television.  

For 2021-22, $1.48 billion worth of ad time will be spent on nascent Connected TV, more than cable television ($1.34 billion), Facebook and Google

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($1.29 billion) and radio at $220 million. CTV combines the targeting capability associated with digital media with the awareness attributes of television. As with previous elections, Facebook and Google will be used primarily for fundraising. 

By Office: Because of the large number of elections, AdImpact forecasts $2.5 million will be spent on down ballot races with more dollars to be allocated on digital media in response to cord cutting. Statewide Senate and gubernatorial elections will garner $2.4 billion and $2.3 billion respectively. Races for seats in the House of Representatives are forecast to generate $1.7 billion. Redistricting however, may play a role on how much advertising will be spent in House races.

By State: Looking at geography, AdImpact forecasts one-third of all political advertising will be spent in just five states, Florida ($593 million), California ($592 million), Georgia ($551 million), Pennsylvania ($538 million) and Arizona ($525 million). Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona will all be battleground states with competitive races for U.S. Senate and for governor. Although a reliable “blue” state in recent elections, California will have 53 House of Representative races, and statewide races for the U.S. Senate and for governor.

U.S. Senate: Political ad dollars spent on U.S. Senate seats will be down by 6% from the 2019-20 cycle, but up by 140% from the last midterm cycle. At a projected $244 million, more dollars will be spent in the Georgia race than in any other state. In Georgia, Raphael Warnock who won a special runoff election in 2020, will be running for a full six-year term.

With two-term incumbent senator Pat Toomey stepping down, Pennsylvania, a battleground state, is forecast to see $228 million in political ad spend for his Senate seat. The ad spending in Arizona, another battleground state, is projected to total $217 million. In Arizona former astronaut Mark Kelly, who won a special election for John McCain’s seat, will be seeking his own six-year term. With an estimated $214 million, Florida is the only other state in which over $200 million is forecast in ad spend. In the largest of battleground states, incumbent Senator Marco Rubio will be seeking a third term.

Gubernatorial: AdImpact projects ad spend for gubernatorial seats will more than double from the 2017-18 election cycle. Similar to U.S. Senate races, Georgia, by a wide margin, is expected to have the highest ad spend at $235 million. Incumbent governor Brian Kemp will be seeking a second term. Both Arizona and Florida are also expecting hotly contested races. In Arizona, incumbent governor Doug Ducey is ineligible to seek reelection because of term limits. AdImpact forecasts $168 million in political ad dollars in 2022. In Florida, incumbent governor Ron DeSantis is running for a second term, $164 million in ad spend is forecast for that race.

House of Representatives: When compared to 2019-20, political ad spending for 2021-22 is projected to increase by 40%, with more ad dollars being spent on Facebook, Google and Connected TV. The three states which are expected to generate the most in political ad spend will be Texas ($193 million), California ($143 million) and New York ($129 million).

With control of Congress at stake, donations have been on the upswing fueling political ad spending. For example, during the first six months of 2021, ActBlue, received over $600 million in contributions via its online fundraising platform from Democrat donors. WinRed, the Republican online funding platform, received nearly $270 million in campaign contributions during the first six months of the year.

The biggest beneficiaries of this largesse will once again be local broadcasters, cable networks, Facebook, Google and now Connected TV suppliers.

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