Nov 26, 2019 - Economy & Business

Billionaires dominate 2020 ad spend

Data: Advertising Analytics; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Advertising Analytics; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The 2020 campaigns of the three billionaires running for president next year have collectively spent about two-thirds of all ad dollars so far.

Why it matters: Self-funded billionaires like former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are trouncing candidates like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who are getting most of their money from small-dollar fundraising.

Yes, but: Although President Trump is a billionaire, his campaign this time around isn't self-funded. The Trump campaign has raised most of its money alongside big Republican political groups like the Republican National Committee.

Details: Bloomberg has only officially been in the presidential race for a few days, but already he's invested more in television ads this year than many of his competitors.

  • "In one week alone, Bloomberg’s spending on TV nearly eclipsed the entire field (excluding Tom Steyer) combined — $35M to $40M," says Paul Winn, COO of Advertising Analytics.

Bloomberg's campaign is running a familiar strategy; spending most of his dollars at the national level, and then in the states with the biggest populations.

  • So far, he's committed the most money to ads running nationally (nearly $7 million), followed by ads running in California (~$4.2 million), Florida (~$3.6 million), Texas (~$3.2 million), New York (~2.3 million), Pennsylvania (~$1.4 million), Illinois (~$1.1 million), and North Carolina (~$1 million).
  • He's bought TV ads in roughly 100 different local media markets, per media firm Advertising Analytics, including some smaller markets in states like Idaho and Mississippi.
  • So far, the spend is split among two video ads, Promise and Rebuild the country, which talk about Bloomberg's commitment to certain issues and his record in public service.

Be smart: Bloomberg's war chest has already become a talking point for Democrats on the campaign trail. Many Democrats had similar reactions to Steyer's cash pile when he entered the race a few months ago.

  • "We do not believe that billionaires have the right to buy elections, , and that is why we are going to overturn Citizens United, that is why multibillionaires like Mr. Bloomberg are not going to get very far in this election," Sanders said at a campaign event Sunday.
  • "His view is that he doesn’t need people who knock on doors. He doesn’t need to go out and campaign, people," Warren said at a campaign event Monday. "He doesn’t need volunteers. And if you get out and knock on 1,000 doors he’ll just spend another $37 million to flood the airwaves and that’s how he plans to buy a nomination in the Democratic Party. I think that is fundamentally wrong."

The big picture: The 2020 election was already slated to be a record-breaking political advertising event. Now that Bloomberg and Steyer have both jumped into the race, advertising spend on the presidential race alone could exceed the $3 billion predicted by experts.

Go deeper: 2020 candidates are mostly focusing their advertising spending online

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