Bruce Murphy
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Biden Buries Trump in State’s TV Ads

Big advantage in all five markets in state. Wisconsin getting 4th most ads in the U.S.

By - Oct 20th, 2020 01:40 pm
Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

President Donald Trump is getting killed by Democratic challenger Joe Biden in spending on TV ads in America’s battleground states, including in Wisconsin, where the campaigns have spent the fourth most money.  

“His dominance is most pronounced in three critical swing states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — where he spent about $53 million to Mr. Trump’s $17 million over the past month largely on ads assailing the president’s handling of the virus as well as the economy and taxes, according to data from Advertising Analytics,” the New York Times reported.

In the Milwaukee media market, the state’s biggest, Biden has had a nearly 5-to-1 spending advantage in TV advertising over the past 30 days. The market includes Racine and Kenosha counties, two critical swing areas that flipped to Trump in 2016. Those three counties “have seen an average of 139 Biden ads each day for the past week, and just 17 Trump ads,” the story noted.  

The importance of Wisconsin is made clear by its fourth place ranking in total ad spending by the two campaigns, with by far the most spent in Florida, followed by Arizona, Pennsylvania and then Wisconsin, as a report by the Wesleyan Media Project found.

Among the top cities for TV ads, the group found, Milwaukee ranked 7th and Green Bay 11th. 

In Wisconsin the two campaigns were spending about evenly through May and much of the summer, but by August Biden pulled way ahead as Trump slashed his budget for ads in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  

The data from Advertising Analytics shows Biden enjoys a big lead in TV ads in all five Wisconsin TV markets: Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay/Fox Valley, La Crosse/Eau Claire and Wausau/Rhinelander. (Chunks of western Wisconsin are part of the Minnesota markets of Twin Cities and Duluth-Superior.)   

Some of the ads running in Wisconsin are part of a national buy. “What Biden’s campaign is doing is pretty unique,” as John Link, vice president of Advertising Analytics, told Wispolitics.  The campaign has been able to afford both targeted ads in swing states and national ads, “allowing them to expand their reach without sacrificing attention to key states and potentially saving money,” Link said, because national ads can be cheaper in battleground states with major Senate races where ad rates are soaring. 

“The campaign is advertising heavily on shows such as ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and ‘Jeopardy,’ which are popular among seniors, and older people especially are watching more TV during the pandemic,” the story noted.” Biden’s ad buys are also ‘deep,’ Link noted, spanning 32 networks that range from Fox to Animal Planet to the DIY network and History Channel.”

The impact of those ads, in conjunction with how Trump has handled the pandemic, is showing up in the polls and making states like Ohio, Texas and Iowa look more in play, as Nick Everhart, a veteran Republican ad consultant, told Politco: “A lot of the movement in some of these red-leaning states has been from white people over 55 who are at home during the pandemic and watching a lot of ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ a lot of ‘Jeopardy’ and a lot of local news,” Everhart said.

Biden’s lead in not as big on TV ads when spending by outside groups is included, but is still substantial, at $102 million for pro-Biden ads to $61 million in pro-Trump ads over the past two weeks, Wesleyan found. And digital spending on Facebook and Google, where Trump had once enjoyed a substantial lead, is now about even, with Biden holding a tiny lead in spending since late September, the group’s data shows. 

The Trump campaign has discounted the importance of total TV ad buy figures. “Television ads are a small piece of the voter outreach puzzle and the Trump campaign has perfected the art of utilizing them in the most strategic, surgical way possible,” Samantha Zager, the deputy press secretary for the Trump campaign, told the Times.

But if so, why is the campaign spending so heavily in Florida, where it has blanketed the state’s major media markets with ads? The reality is that both campaigns will spend most of their money on TV ads, and Florida is a must-win state for Trump. Yet Biden is spending far more there than Trump.

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