Political Ad Spending Hits Historic Highs in 2018 Campaign

Politicians running in the 2018 elections spent a record amount of money on advertising for mid-term campaigns, with more than $4 billion between local broadcast, cable and online. The vast bulk of the dollars went to local television, at just over $3 billion, according to the Television Bureau of Advertising. Cable brought in $1.1 billion and $900 million went to online advertising. Although local television reaped the biggest windfall, the numbers represent a 29 percent increase for local TV, 75 percent for cable and a whopping 260 percent increase for online, when compared to the 2014 mid-terms, according to Axios.

The biggest spenders in the campaign, according to Axios were Political Action Committees (PACs), including Priorities USA and House Majority PAC on the left, Congressional Leadership Fund and Senate Leadership Fund on the right, as well as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The figures for digital online political advertising were debateable, with advertising research firm Borrell touting $1.8 billion and Kantar Media/CMAG estimating $900 million. In 2014, an estimated $250 million was spend in online campaign ads.

Nevertheless, with 3 out of every 4 dollars spent on local TV ads, TVB touted the figures as proof that political campaigns continue to view local television as the primary venue for political advertising.

“Campaigns, PACs and other entities spent over $3 billion dollars on local broadcast television advertising in the 2018 midterm cycle,” commented TVB President & CEO, Steve Lanzano. “There is no doubt that local broadcast TV delivers for political campaigns. Candidates continue to derive tangible, winning results from local broadcast television. Tuesday’s dominant reliance on TV, over all other media platforms, demonstrates that voters rely on local broadcast TV to inform their voting decisions.”

“2018 was uncertain in every way; the volatility this cycle was unprecedented,” said Kyle Roberts, President and CEO of Advertising Analytics. “It’s why we saw candidates and campaigns go back to what is tried and true: if you use TV, it reaches voters and they listen. TV works.”

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.