6 Takeaways From Political Spending Ahead of the 2020 Presidential Race

Here's what candidates bought with their ad budgets in 2019

Broadcast and cable political ad spend will still be a significant portion of the 2020 election advertising pie. - Credit by Getty Images
Headshot of Sara Jerde

Key Insights:

As we head into the 2020 presidential election year, experts are forecasting a record-breaking amount of money spent on political advertising. With new avenues to reach voters, including a slew of social media platforms and OTT devices, campaign ad dollars will likely shift from traditional channels.

Here are six key insights from the race gathered this year, according to findings from Bully Pulpit Interactive, a liberal-backed digital communications company.

Democrats catch up to Trump’s spending

In the first few months of 2019, President Trump was outspending all of the Democratic candidates combined. But that changed in late March and, now, those Democrats are collectively outspending Trump 3:1.

Candidates focus on early voting states

Andrew Yang is investing the biggest portion of his budget on Facebook ads in Iowa, spending 33% in the first primary state. Overall, though, Elizabeth Warren is spending the most in Iowa week-over-week, followed by Cory Booker.

Unprecedented digital ad spends

Mike Bloomberg has spent an astronomical amount on digital ads since announcing his bid from the presidency: more than $9.4 million since joining the race last month.

Candidates shift ad audience

Candidates joined the race targeting political donors. But that demographic is starting to shift, and candidates are narrowing in on potential voters. Pete Buttigieg, for example, has drastically changed his target. In the spring of this year, Buttigieg spent 62% of his budget on audiences under 44. By the fall, he was spending 66% of his budget on audiences over 45.

What drew Google searches

The candidates’ political stunts (and health scares) got them the most Google searches. The day Bernie Sanders had his heart attack garnered him the most social interest. Meanwhile, Warren’s critical Facebook ad got her the most social attention, and people took to Google to find Andrew Yang’s emotional response at a gun forum in Iowa.

To say his name or not to say his name

Candidates are split on whether to name Trump in ads. Joe Biden and Tom Steyer are on one end of the spectrum, with 30% to 40% of their Facebook ads naming the president. Yang and Buttigieg, meanwhile, each feature Trump’s name in 1% or less of their Facebook ads.


@SaraJerde sara.jerde@adweek.com Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.
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