Heading into the homestretch of an unprecedented election, a pair of new forecasts from industry analysts call for lower than anticipated political ad spending this year. Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG) has revised its earlier forecast for both TV stations and local cable/satellite advertising, but down-ballot numbers could still help radio.
Kantar calls for TV stations to book $2.8 billion in political ads, down $500 million from its July 2015 forecast of $3.3 billion. Kantar also adjusted its outlook for local cable/satellite ads down 6% to $750 million from $800 million and gave a 70% buzz cut to its political forecast for broadcasting/cable networks, which are expected to hit $100 million instead of the earlier forecast of $300 million.
However, that revised $2.8 billion total for TV is still higher than the $2.7 billon haul TV took in during the 2012 presidential election.
Steve Passwaiter, Kantar Media senior director, Business Development—Political, revealed the lower forecast numbers at the TVB Forward conference on Thursday. That’s also where Wells Fargo Securities senior analyst Marci Ryvicker downgraded her political advertising forecast. Ryvicker called for TV stations to pull in $2.65 billion, down from her previous estimate of more than $3 billion.
The revised projections are attributed to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s reliance on so-called earned media over paid advertising. Trump has so far spent only $78 million on advertising, per Kantar/CMAG, significantly lower than the $550 million shelled out by GOP candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, got a head start with a TV campaign that has been on the air all summer. Trump didn’t hit the TV airwaves until mid-August and last month he spent $5 million on ads, compared with Clinton’s $32 million, according to The Wall Street Journal.
However, the Trump campaign has begun the process of rolling out a $140 million campaign. Since Sept. 23, the campaign’s booked spending on TV and radio advertising through election day has surged by over $30 million, according to Ad Age, with Orlando, Tampa and Miami earmarked for the largest allocations.
While presidential spending has been softer than expected so far, it’s a different story down the ballot where ad dollars are healthy and strong. “There is a lot of activity happening down-ballot, where the decision-makers live a lot closer to [local radio],” Passwaiter told Inside Radio in an interview in late August. “You may have more of an ability to influence how that money gets allocated, based on the fact that they’re in your market and you have more direct access to the people who may have the ability to influence things.”