By and large, the top Democratic Senate campaigns are putting a bit more of their early spending into digital than their Republican counterparts, according to a newly released analysis. But for the campaigns already engaged in heavy ad spending, most of the dollars have gone to TV.
In 14 competitive Senate races, Democratic campaigns put an average of 15 percent of their pre-Labor Day ad budgets into digital while GOP efforts averaged 6.2 percent, according to the Wesleyan Media Project, which conducted its analysis on ad spending done from May 31-Sept. 3. Though it’s worth noting those percentages include a handful of Senate campaigns that have yet to spend much of anything in earnest.
The snapshot of spending in this cycle’s most competitive Senate contests does reveal some of the campaigns that have placed a heavier emphasis on digital in the early going. The research, which includes TV data from Kantar/CMAG, Facebook data from Pathmatics and Google data from the company’s Transparency Report, doesn’t track a campaign’s entire digital outlay.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is in a tough reelection fight, has put 78.5 percent of his ad budget into digital compared with 53.1 percent for challenger Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), though there’s a disparity in overall ad spending between the two to this point.
Another interesting finding in the report is that Facebook remains the digital ad platform of choice – at least for Democrats. Of the total spent on digital advertising by the 14 Democratic Senate campaigns, $3,159,700 went to Facebook and $1.495 million went to Google.
One campaign in particular is padding that total. By the end of May, O’Rourke had dropped some $2.1 million on Facebook advertising, and $386,000 marketing on Google. His total is more than the 14 GOP campaigns spent combined on Facebook.
Meanwhile, the Republicans dropped $470,100 on Facebook and $991,500 on Google, according to the research. Florida Gov. Rick Scott was a standout with some $600,000 spent by his Senate campaign on digital, though more than $13 million has already been spent on TV on the Republican side in that race.
In total, some $6.1 million went into digital advertising from the 28 Senate campaigns. Compare that to some $45 million spent on TV during the same period.
The percentage of digital as part of the ad mix for these Senate candidates is low based on some overall figures. For instance, spending tracker Borrell Associates estimates that digital will make up $1.8 billion of the $8.9 billion in total political ad spending this cycle. That’s roughly 20 percent compared with 13.3 percent of the total spent by the Senate campaigns in the Wesleyan research.