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July 2, 20243 min read

State of Play: Presidential TV Ad War

With the first debate behind us- kicking off a contentious summer and fall of partisan political sniping - Vivvix CMAG is examining the current state of the presidential TV ad war.  All forecasts predict an unprecedented advertising bonanza across all media, with linear media enjoying 70% of the ad buys. Most notable about the current ad spending is the disparity between Democrat presidential advertising and Republican.

Since the unofficial start of the general election period - March 7th, when Nikki Haley suspended her campaign - Democrats have enjoyed 80% [$50M] of the TV ad spend, versus just 20% [$12.5M] for the GOP.

Bucking the PAC-heavy trend we saw in the GOP presidential primary, the Biden for President campaign itself has aired the majority of this ad activity: $27M on 61,425 ad occurrences with Philadelphia, Detroit & Atlanta being the most saturated. This ad strategy focuses on attacking Donald Trump, as well as tapping into concerns regarding abortion rights, voting rights and the high cost of prescription drugs.

Top 5 Issues Aired by the Biden Campaign [$$]:

  1. Anti-Trump
  2. Healthcare
  3. Abortion
  4. Voting
  5. Prescription Drugs

Turning to the Dem-aligned Political Action Committees [PACs] in this presidential ad contest, AB PAC is the top spender with $11.4M on 9,259 airings, Future Forward USA & Climate Power with $7M spent on 7,538 airings and the Evergreen Collaborative with $771K spent on 930 airings. AB PAC is targeting markets in WI, MI & PA markets. FFUSA & Climate Power is airing ads in these states plus AZ, NV and GA while Evergreen Collaborative has placed their buys in MI, WI & IL.

Top 5 Issues Aired by these PACs [$$]:

  1. Anti Trump/Abortion (tied)
  2. Pro Biden/Supreme Court (tied)
  3. Healthcare
  4. Green Energy
  5. Utility Rates

Though the Trump campaign released their first new TV ads since February during Thursday’s debate with President Biden, he had been dark since February 29th- not long before seeing off his last primary challenger. As he did during that primary, he is reliant upon PACs to advocate for his candidacy on the nation’s airwaves.

Make America Great Again has led the way amongst Republican groups airing presidential advertising with $8.4M spent on 2,503 airings since Haley dropped out of the race: 92% of that has been targeted at PA markets. “Securing American Greatness, Inc.” has aired $2.1M in TV ads with 7,015 airings, targeting solely PA and GA markets. American Fuel & PetroChemical Manufacturers, taking President Biden to task for his plan to phase out the internal combustion engine, has spent $1.4M on 2,061 ad airings primarily in MI, PA, WI and NV. 

Top 5 Issues Aired by these PACs [$$]:

  1. Anti-Biden
  2. Economy: Inflation
  3. Utility Rates
  4. Immigration
  5. Public Safety

While attacking the other party’s candidate is certainly a priority in both D and R ad strategies, at this point the Dem-aligned PACs are more interested in citing President Biden’s accomplishments than the Republican groups are in promoting Donald Trump. As they have done since the Dobbs decision, the Democrats are hoping the unpopularity of the GOP position on abortion carries them to victory while the GOP continues focusing on inflation and public safety concerns arising from illegal immigration.

More concerning for the Democrats is that, although they have been dominating the airwaves and have plenty in their cash reserves for this summer and fall, most polling indicates they are either tied or a few points behind Trump in both national and battleground state surveys of voters. FiveThirtyEight unveiled their predictions for this election’s outcome which indicated Trump has a 66% chance of winning.

This is the state of play in the absence of Trump airing ads, his recent felony conviction and his ongoing legal costs. While his past and upcoming trials will take up more of his time and money- his aforementioned convictions resulted in a campaign fundraising windfall. It remains to be seen if the Democrats can leverage the news cycle, their financial advantages and incumbency to put daylight between their candidate and his challenger.

Written by Geoffrey Pereira, Vivvix CMAG