Political ad spending is projected to reach new heights by the end of the 2024 election cycle, eclipsing $10 billion in what would amount to the most expensive two years in political history.
AdImpact, a firm that tracks political ad spending, projects that campaigns and outside groups will spend $2.7 billion on ads in the presidential election alone, followed by $2.1 billion on the Senate, $1.7 billion on the House, $361 million on gubernatorial elections and $3.3 billion on other elections.
It's no surprise that the presidential race is expected to drive the spending, as it does every election cycle. But the $10.2 billion projection for 2024 would be a 13% increase over the $9 billion spent in 2020, when two self-funding Democratic billionaires unsuccessfully ran for president. And it represents a massive increase from the $2.6 billion spent during the 2016 election cycle.
The new projected high comes as ad spending in the Republican race has hit a torrid pace, eclipsing $100 million in GOP presidential primary spending far earlier than in previous elections.
Shifting viewing habits and changing demographics among Americans are having some effect on the ad landscape: TV ad spending is projected to make up a slightly smaller piece of the pie this election cycle, while streaming television is projected to make up a slightly larger share and Spanish-language ads are projected to increase 9% from last cycle.
Digital ad spending declined from 2020 to 2022 as some major platforms banned political ads for a stretch in part as a response to the spread of misinformation surrounding the 2020 election. AdImpact expects digital spending to increase for the 2024 election cycle compared to 2022, but it is not projected to hit the heights of the last presidential election.
Comparing projected primary spending to the 2020 Democratic primary is difficult because of the aforementioned billionaires who ran last cycle: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California activist billionaire Tom Steyer spent almost $800 million on ads alone before they ended their unsuccessful presidential bids.
Excluding that spending, AdImpact is predicting a 27% increase in presidential primary spending between 2020 and 2024.
The group also predicts a 17% increase in general election presidential ad spending to $2.1 billion, with more than three-quarters of the projected spending concentrated in seven familiar swing states: Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada and Wisconsin. All of them except North Carolina flipped from Donald Trump to Joe Biden in 2020, and none were decided by more than Michigan's 2.8-percentage-point margin.
AdImpact is expecting far less 2024 spending in Florida, long the quintessential presidential battleground, after a recent string of GOP electoral successes there.
And while the presidential race is expected to see more ad spending, AdImpact presents a modest decrease in ad spending, 9%, in the battle for Senate control. The group projects the opposite to happen in House races, predicting an 8% increase from 2022, because "while the number of competitive races is going down, the amount spent on each competitive race is going up."