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Pathmatics Blog
Political Advertising |


Senate Race Draws Millions in Digital Ad Spending; Hints at 2020 Presidential Run

November 01 2018 by Sarah Fleishman
Untitled design (4)
Untitled design (4)

As the midterm election cycle reaches its peak, an analysis of advertising strategies across television and digital shows high spend from politicians in Texas, according to a recent report by the Wesleyan Media Project.  In addition, targeted digital ad strategies from rumored 2020 Presidential hopefuls may be a sign of what's to come in the next two years, according to data from Pathmatics, Kantar/CMAG, and Google.

Between May 31 and October 15 of this year Senate candidates spent nearly $150 million on TV ads and $17.5 million on digital adverting. Of the digital spend, $11.5 million was allocated to  Facebook exclusively.

 Two Candidates break $1 Million in Digital Ad Dollars

Democratic candidate for Senate Beto O’Rourke (TX) spent $5.6 million on digital ads, focusing $4.6 Million on Facebook. The only other candidate to break $1 Million in digital spending was Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA). Her budget went almost exclusively to Facebook, spending only $167,000 on Google and allocating no budget to TV (local broadcast, national broadcast, or national cable).

Digital & Television Spending by Senate Candidate (Top 10)

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Hinting at a Presidential Run?

With the 2020 Presidential election looming, digital spending patterns of some candidates may indicate their plans to make a run at the Oval Office.  A look at both in-state and out-of-state spending on Facebook shows that many candidates rumored as potential Presidential candidates for 2020 have focused their spending out-of-state, which suggests that they could be more focused on building their personal brand and donor base than running for re-election.

Digital Spending By Potential Presidential Candidates

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Aside from Donald Trump, who tops the list with $5.8 Million spent across Facebook and Google, Senator Warren of Massachusetts has spent over $1.5 million on Facebook, with only 8% focused in Massachusetts. Similarly, Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York has spent almost $1 million on digital advertising in her re-election campaign, with only 9% of Facebook spending in her home state. Senator Bernie Sanders has focused only 1% of his $350,000 digital advertising budget on his home state of Vermont, and Senator Kamila Harris of California, who does not face re-election until 2022, has spent over $850,000 on Facebook advertising since May 31, with 27% focused in CA.

By contrast, Senators Brown of Ohio and Klobuchar of Minnesota have focused 71% and 82% of their digital budgets in their home states, suggesting that their focus is squarely on the upcoming midterm election.

For more adverting insights from the upcoming election or to read the full report, check out the Wesleyan Media Project here.

About Author
Sarah Fleishman

With over a decade of experience across digital marketing, content, creative, and PR, Sarah is a creative and dynamic thinker who loves to delight clients with unique and relatable content. Sarah graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Sociology.

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