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Biden campaign makes $280 million in ad reservations for fall stretch

The Democrat's campaign reserved time for a TV and digital ad strategy nationally and in more than a dozen key states.
Image: Joe Biden
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event at William "Hicks" Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, Del., on July 28.Andrew Harnik / AP

WILMINGTON, Del. — Joe Biden's presidential campaign is leveraging its growing war chest to go big on the airwaves and online this fall, announcing that it has reserved $280 million for advertising nationally and across more than a dozen battleground states.

Having steadily ramped up the paid television advertising in recent weeks, Biden campaign advisers say the early investment represents their confidence in finding multiple pathways to victory in November. Reservations have been made not just in the half-dozen core states they've focused on this summer, but also in so-called expansion states like Georgia and Texas.

"This reservation lays the groundwork for a paid media program that enables our campaign to communicate directly with a broad swath of the electorate, letting voters hear directly from Vice President Biden speaking to the moment we're in — the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis that has left millions jobless — and see a demonstration of the type of leadership that's so badly missing from the White House right now," campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon wrote in a campaign strategy memo.

The ad strategy, top campaign officials, will carry that argument to Americans' television screens and online and mobile devices in the coming months — tailored in some cases to specific voting demographics, like Black and Hispanic Americans on channels they frequently visit, as well as timed to align with different states' voting timelines. It's especially critical for the campaign given that its candidate and his top surrogates won't be on the campaign trail often as they follow health and safety guidance.

The campaign has steadily increased its spending after having outraised the Trump campaign in recent months without holding events in person. The Trump campaign has allotted more than $145 million to TV and radio ads starting after Labor Day, data from Advertising Analytics shows.

The campaign had already invested $44.5 million on 10 new TV and digital ads in recent weeks, including a period when the Trump campaign was reassessing its paid media strategy and wasn't on the air.

Since he launched his campaign in April 2019, Biden has hewed closely to a message about uniting the country and fighting to restore "the soul of America," an argument that the campaign easily adapted in the face of a global pandemic, an economic crisis and national demonstrations for racial justice. Biden's recent ads have focused on his plans for economic recovery and addressing the pandemic.

The campaign expressed confidence that the message continues to resonate in the face of a Trump campaign that they argued is lurching from negative attack to negative attack without success.

President Donald Trump is "not going to be able to create a new reality," Mike Donilon, the campaign's chief strategist, told reporters Tuesday.

"There is a reality in this country, and the reality is that the coronavirus is out of control, and the reality is he has failed to lead, and the reality is that the country is looking for a president who will take leadership on this issue and really bringing the country together and give people confidence that we have the ability to get this virus under control, get this economy back on track and get moving in a way forward so we can deal with some of the longer-term issues," Donilon said.

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Of the $280 million in new reservations, $220 million is earmarked toward television and $60 million for digital advertising. The campaign says the television component will include a significant number of 60-second ads, rather than the usual 30-second ads, to "give a fuller and clearer picture" of Biden's message and showcase what they see as a key quality — empathy.

They say their reservation includes "major viewing events" and high-impact moments like live sports events and presidential and vice presidential debate coverage, as well as both party conventions and National Voter Registration Day.

The campaign's digital component includes sites like Hulu and YouTube, as well as streaming audio and online gaming.

While the campaign declined to say when Biden would announce his vice presidential running mate, they did say that whoever he chooses would also feature prominently in campaign advertising.