NewBay Webinar: Midterm Election TV Ad Spend Already Almost 10x 2010 Levels

Political ad dollars are surging into a range of TV coffers, at levels many times that of the last midterm election, observed experts during the first of three webinars sponsored by B&C and Multichannel News.

“The early start to the 2014 election cycle is really unprecedented,” said Harley Ellenberger, VP of analytics for Kantar Media during the Wednesday afternoon session. "It really is 8 to 10 times more volume then what we’ve seen in the past.”

He later backed up the assertion with some eye-opening stats. The Texas Republican primary, for example, was the most expensive of 2010, with outside spending at $6.1 million. This year the North Carolina race’s outside spending clocked in at $12.8 million, while Mississippi’s was just over $11 million.

The major reason, explained Federal Election Commission chairman Lee Goodman, is that “many interest groups are seeing the primary as the best place to influence change and the makeup of representation in congress.”

This emphasis on primary wins is one of the factors leading to increased early spending overall.

The trend of spending early is so entrenched that the 2016 presidential campaign may have already begun. Liz Oxhorn of gmmb, the agency that led Obama For America’s media placement, says we’re in “uncharted territory.”

Ellenberger has already seen two anti-Hillary Clinton ads, making it “the earliest start to a ‘presidential election’ since Kantar started tracking ads.” It was also mentioned that Florida senator Marco Rubio is using his super PAC money to shore up primaries in Iowa.

The other major focus for political funds is efficient targeting.

“The rise of digital has created a need for TV to reach that level of targeting and that’s where things like analytics become very useful,” Oxhorn said.

Chris Wilson, president of measurement and research company Rentrak, agreed, saying that recent advances help “identify that [desirable] group of people and understand where to find them on television or digitally and communicate with them in a relevant way.”

He expects to see the new money to go into early morning, “fringe” and late-night broadcast, along with very niche cable networks that reach important, "persuadable" voters.

An archived replay of the webinar, which includes proprietary data from participants is available here, while information about the next two webinars can be found here.