Slow start for political spending in 2014
Spending is off from 2010 and 2012, with ballot issues lagging
September 2, 2014
Political ad spending will still be strong this year.
But it is off to a slower-than-expected start, and it will be up modestly over the last mid-term elections, in 2010.
That’s according to a recent report from Magna Global, which notes that spending this year has been sluggish compared to past election cycles.
It forecasts spending will hit $2.3 billion on spot television, up 5 percent over 2010 but off slightly from Magna’s previous forecast.
That total is down 18 percent from the presidential election in 2012 and marks the first time since the 2010 Citizens United decision, which lifted a ban on political spending by corporations, that spending will decline from election to election.
Magna notes that ballot issues in particular have attracted much less spending than they did to the same point in 2012 and 2010. Ballot issues generally account for 20 percent of all political spending.
Still, it’s early in the campaign season. Political spending from January to July accounts for only a third of total political spending, with two thirds coming in the final three months before the election.
“It’s not too late for political spending to catch up with the record spend witnessed previously,” notes the report.
There are several factors that account for the reduced spending to start the year.
First, there are fewer big races in question. A number of incumbents did not face primary challengers, which means less reason to advertise early in the election year.
And there are fewer race outcomes in question. The way the Senate and gubernatorial races happened to fall this year, there are strong favorites in many states who won’t need to spend a lot on advertising to shore up a victory.
There are other things impacting spending, too.
For instance, earlier this month in Colorado, state lawmakers and grass roots organizations agreed to remove four controversial ballot initiatives. Already $10 million had been spend both for and against the measures, but now that money has completely dried up since there’s nothing left to support or oppose.
And finally, digital continues to steal away a small but growing share of TV dollars. A recent report from Borrell Associates, the Williamsburg, Va., ad tracking firm, predicted that digital political spending would skyrocket by nearly 2,000 percent this year compared to 2010.
Digital ads are less expensive than television, and people are spending an increasing amount of time on their digital devices, especially mobile. Digital still makes up only 3.3 of total political spending though.
The decrease in political spending also led to a rather disappointing second quarter for spot television. Ad spending was flat to last year, following a 6 percent gain in first quarter.
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