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

While some of the lower-spending 2020 Democrats are investing most of their dollars in digital ads, the biggest spenders — Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer — are overwhelmingly spending more on television ads as a percentage of their budgets.

Why it matters: Their ad spend stands in stark contrast to that of the Trump campaign, which is investing much more heavily in digital advertising, especially on Facebook.

Be smart: 2020 was supposed to be the year that digital got closer to overtaking television as a percentage of presidential campaign spend, and if it weren't for the two billionaires on the left entering the race, it very well may have been.

  • Without those two candidates, all candidates (including Trump) in the past year have spent a collective $75 million on TV ads — roughly $60 million on broadcast and $15.5 million on cable — compared to nearly $80 million spent so far on digital ads.

The big picture: The big critique of Democrats in 2016 was that the party was too reliant on consultants and an outdated organizational structure to invest enough in digital.

  • Conversations with many sources in the political advertising world say that the same dynamic persists ahead of 2020. However, digital investments have increased overall, especially as candidates have found themselves under more pressure to solicit people online for small-dollar donations in order to qualify for debates.

Yes, but: Democrats have pledged to pour many millions more into digital through third-party groups, and some candidates — like Pete Buttigieg and Elisabeth Warren — are still spending more online than on TV.

  • A political action committee affiliated with the digital progressive group ACRONYM announced in November that it would launch a $75 million digital advertising campaign to take on President Trump.
  • Priorities USA, one of the biggest progressive political groups, has spent roughly $7 million on digital ads over the past year.
  • While Bloomberg's campaign has spent roughly $33 million to date on digital ads, it has pledged to spend up to $100 million throughout the course of his campaign in a digital anti-Trump ad blitz.

Between the lines: Digital "acquisition" ads, especially on Facebook and Google search, are typically used to help campaigns build lists to lure small-dollar and volunteers. Video "persuasion" ads on platforms like YouTube and on local broadcast television, are usually used to get voters to cast ballots or take action on an issue.

  • It's for this reason that broadcast spend tends to increase towards big primary events, like the Iowa caucuses and Super Tuesday, when candidates need voters to take action.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.

Biden Cabinet confirmation schedule: When to watch hearings

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Jan. 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The first hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet nominations begin on Tuesday, with testimony from his picks to lead the departments of State, Homeland and Defense.

Why it matters: It's been a slow start for a process that usually takes place days or weeks earlier for incoming presidents. The first slate of nominees will appear on Tuesday before a Republican-controlled Senate, but that will change once the new Democratic senators-elect from Georgia are sworn in.