$2 Billion in Political Ad Spending for 2006 Beats Record, Projections

Nov 1, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Political advertising spending for 2006 has zoomed past all projections and is heading for the stratosphere, with more than $2 billion likely to be spent. That’s 17.6 percent more than the $1.7 billion spent in 2004, the previous record high for political ad spending in a year.

Evan Tracey, who tracks spending on national broadcast and cable and major broadcast stations for TNS Media Intelligence’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, said spending passed his $1.7 billion projection for the whole year last Friday and continues to escalate, with at least $200 million to $300 million more expected to be spent by Election Day next Tuesday.

Mr. Tracey originally expected spending to total between $1.4 billion and $1.6 billion this year, but then revised his estimate, saying it could reach $1.7 billion.

The CMAG numbers don’t include spot cable, which has attracted even more spending. An official of National Cable Communications, the media rep arm of the three major cable system operators, Comcast, Time Warner and Cox Communications, did not return a request for comment about spending on spot cable this year.

Mr. Tracey said the surprisingly high numbers in a year that doesn’t have the advantage of presidential campaign ad spending reflects the number of state ballot initiatives and gubernatorial campaigns as well the tight House and Senate races around the country.

He also said it reflects changes in campaign finance laws that allow increased contributions and the lack of availability of broadcast time. He said the difficulty obtaining broadcast time has pushed up prices for spots.

“We can’t keep up with the ad prices,” he said. “We have a higher multiplier to try to figure out what issue and party groups are getting charged [above normal ad rates] to buy at the end, but it’s uncharted territory because of the intensity.”

Mr. Tracey said he heard anecdotally of one Los Angeles TV station raising its spot rates $25,000 virtually overnight, though he hadn’t confirmed it.

He also attributed some of the spending to more candidates being on the air and for longer periods of time. Mr. Tracey said the cost of putting together a TV spot are decreasing while more candidates want spots on, even in districts that haven’t advertised before.

The totals come as spending continues to mount and some turns national. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Wednesday it had bought national cable on CNN and other networks for a “significant” buy for a Democratic commercial questioning the country’s direction in Iraq.