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Exclusive: The Swing States Where Political Ad Spending Is Exploding

July 13th, 2016 | Read more articles from 2016 or Visit the News Archive
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Originally Appearing at: AdAge

By Simon Dumenco

Editor’s note: To make sense of politics, you need to not only parse the polls but follow the money. That’s why today we’re launching the Ad Age Swing State Advertising Heat Map in partnership with STRATA, an advertising software firm owned by Comcast that processes more than $50 billion in ad transactions each year. This new monthly view is designed to supplement our weekly Campaign Scorecard posts that appear every Friday in our Campaign Trail section. Some context and analysis from Simon Dumenco follows.—Ken Wheaton


  • A new Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released today suggests that the presidential race has suddenly tightened up in three states: Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. (See USA Today’s report: “Poll: Trump even with Clinton in three swing states.”)
  • By drilling down into STRATA’s hyperlocal TV advertising data—the company works with political ad agencies representing 75% of the total political ad spend—we can get a good sense of the ebb and flow of ad dollars among the batteground states.
  • We’ve set this up to take a look at month-over-month increases or decreases (in this case, June vs. May political ad spending in swing states) as well as 2016 vs. 2012 increases or decreases (in this case, June 2016 vs. June 2012). Scroll down below the map and the state-by-state breakdowns for details on our methodology, a summary of this edition’s findings as well as some insight from STRATA.


(Click for Interactive Heat Map)


  • If you hover over the background color of a battleground state, you’ll see a number that represents the month-over-month increase or decrease in political ad spending. Comparing June to May, every swing state has seen gains, but Colorado has the largest increase (+616%). That said, if you take a look at the column labeled “% change 2012 vs. 2016 (June),” you’ll see that in Colorado’s three key broadcast markets—Colorado Springs, Denver-Boulder and Grand Junction—spending on political advertising in June 2016 is still well below the levels seen in June 2012.
  • The states singled out by the Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released today have seen varying levels of increased poltical ad spending, with Ohio seeing the biggest June-vs.-May jump (+251%), followed by Florida (+125%) and Pennsylvania (+26%).
  • “There is a sense that we are in the calm before the storm,” Judd Rubin, VP-revenue at STRATA, told Ad Age. “Look for things to heat up nationally after the Republican and Democratic Conventions on July 18-21 and July 25-28, respectively. Ad spend should really start to pick up after Donald Trump starts spending more seriously than he has until this point.”


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