Political Campaign Media Spend to Reach All-Time High of $4.5 Billion in ’08

December 6, 2007

This article is included in these additional categories:

Broadcast & Cable | Newspapers | Out-of-Home | Radio | Television

Political campaign spending on advertising media and marketing services is expected to rocket to an all-time high of $4.50 billion in the 2008 election cycle, driven by an acrimonious political environment, record fundraising and the high number of presidential candidates, according to a preliminary forecast by PQ Media. 

Total political media spend in the 2008 election cycle, including all nine advertising and marketing communications segments used for this purpose, is expected to be 43.3% more than in the 2006 cycle and is projected to soar 64.1% over the 2004 election, the previous presidential campaign year.

The forecast is according to PQ Media’s “Political Media Buying 2008: Preliminary Forecast Analysis.”
“[T]his is the first election since 1928 without a current member of the executive branch running for office, which has resulted in an unusually high number of presidential candidates participating in the primary season, as well as a discordant political landscape on several fronts,” said Patrick Quinn, President & CEO of PQ Media.

Another key trend driving overall growth in 2008 is expected record-breaking fundraising, because many presidential candidates have decided to forgo federal matching funds and so individual contributions have no set limits, coupled with earlier primaries and a particularly acrimonious campaign environment.

According to PQ Media’s forecast analysis:

  • Advertising media, including broadcast and cable TV, radio, newspapers, internet, out-of-home media and mobile & magazines, is projected to reach $3.03 billion, and account for 67.2% of all political media spending in the 2008 election cycle.
  • Meanwhile, spending on political marketing services, including direct mail, public relations, and promotions & event marketing, will reach $1.48 billion and account for the remaining 32.8%.
  • Marketing will continue to gain share from advertising due to more sophisticated databases that allow direct mail strategies to be targeted to specific regions in battleground states, of which there will be more than usual in 2008.
  • Several advertising and marketing segments, such as cable TV and direct mail, will exhibit significant gains due to critical television station inventory trends, particularly in New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Campaign spend in various media, according to the forecast:

  • Broadcast TV will still command the largest share of political media spend in 2008 with 51.3% of the total $4.50 billion, but candidates will continue to shift budgets to other media strategies like public relations, promotions & event marketing and the internet to reach key target demographics.
  • Campaign funding growth has expanded the use of other media, particularly direct mail, which is projected to generate more than $1 billion in spending – or 24% of the total – for the first time in 2008.
  • Radio stations are forecast to get $272 million in spend, up 55% from 2004.
  • Campaigns will earmark $200 million for local cable ads, a 94% increase from 2004.
  • Of all nine advertising and marketing segments, internet ad spend is expected to exhibit the fastest growth during the 2008 campaign, up an estimated 83.9% compared with 2006 and totaling some $73 million.
  • Newspapers, however, still attract likely voters and are forecast to in turn attract $106 million in campaign spending, up nearly 83% from 2004.
  • Other media projected to exhibit high double-digit gains are public relations, promotions & event marketing (55.9%), direct mail (53.0%) and broadcast TV (46.2%).
  • Total spend for outdoor advertising is expected to reach $63 million.

Distribution of spend by campaign type, according to the forecast:

  • The presidential race is expected to command the largest share of spending in 2008 at 37.1%, or $1.67 billion, while the Senate and House races will account for 19.4% and 21.4%, respectively.
  • Due to significantly fewer gubernatorial races – 11 vs. 36 in 2006 – spending by gubernatorial candidates is expected to account for less 4% of overall spend.
  • Local races and spending on referendums will account for the remaining 18%.

PQ Media said it believes that political media buying has become more sophisticated each election as both political parties have narrowed the focus of spending to key states and designated market areas (DMAs) to more efficiently allocate funds.

However, the number of presidential battleground states is expected to be higher in 2008 than during the 2004 election due to the lack of an incumbent candidate and vulnerable Democratic states.

“In summer 2004, (Democratic nominee) Sen. John Kerry and President Bush were buying in only 22 states ??” and as we got to the last one or two months, it was only 10 to 12 states,” Leo Kivijarv, PQ Media’s vice-president of research and technology, is quoted by USA Today as saying. “Right now we’ve identified 39 states that are up for grabs.”

“While most political pundits currently have the Democrats winning the presidential and most other elections, some of them don’t realize that the Democrats are more vulnerable to voter shifts due to so few states in which their party currently has a safe lead,” PQ Media’s Quinn said. “This has resulted in campaign spend being spread across more states in 2008 than during the 2004 election.”

(Sources: PQ Media and USA Today)


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