Campaigns, party committees, and outside groups shelled out an eye-popping $1.23 billion this year to run political ads on television, digital and radio, according to new data from AdImpact, a top national ad tracking firm.
Off-election years – the calendar years between presidential and midterm elections – have traditionally been relatively sedate when it comes to the political ad wars, but 2021 was anything but quiet.
The price tag so far for 2021 far exceeds $425 million spent in 2017 on ad spending. It even eclipses the $1.08 billion dished out in 2019, when roughly $405 million was spent on ads during the early and middle stages of the 2020 presidential primary campaign.
Besides the regularly scheduled statewide contests in Virginia and New Jersey as well as key mayoral elections across the country, 2021 started with Georgia’s twin Senate runoffs, included six special congressional elections for vacant House seats, and a gubernatorial recall election in California, the nation’s most populous state.
"Pretty much across the board every category is up. So it's not just one flash in the pan, it's really the entirety of the political ecosystem that's up from a spending perspective in 2021," AdImpact's Ben Taber told FOX Business.
Breaking down the numbers, a whopping $781 million was spent on down ballot races this year, and $154 million on the three contests for governor, including $62 million alone for the California recall. The tab for ad spending on House races came in at $127 million, with $172 million for Senate showdowns. That included $58.6 million dished out during the first five days of the year for the Jan. 5 Georgia runoffs, which the Democrats narrowly swept, giving them control of the Senate.
With the Democrats defending their razor-thin House and Senate majorities in the 2022 midterms and plenty of competitive races in both chambers, the ad wars for next year’s elections started particularly early this cycle.
AdImpact projected in September that $8.9 billion would be shelled out to run TV, digital and radio ads in the 2022 cycle, which would be the highest ever for a midterm election cycle. And the record amount of money spent in 2021 to run political ads adds more fuel to that forecast.
"2021 surpassing 2019’s total political spending only reinforces AdImpact’s original prediction of $8.9B in spending in 2022," Taber emphasized. "This would shatter midterm spending records and approach that of 2020 which is the highest political spending year on record."