The presidential TV ad battles began in earnest last month, with President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney taking to the air in nine battleground states. Total spending, from June 4 to July 8, was about equal, with Dems at $30.3 million and the GOP at $29.4 million. Eighty-nine percent of the spending for Obama was candidate money. Sixty-five percent of spending for Romney (limited by federal election laws related to primary spending) came from super PACs Restore Our Future, American Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity.
Candidates are booking early and often, but unlike previous campaigns, they aren’t spreading the wealth. “There are fewer states in play than in the past,” said Jack Poor, vp of strategic planning for the TVB, which analyzed spot TV data from Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.
Despite the limited number of battleground states, political ads are already causing grief for ad buyers, who must contend with tightening inventory in a political ad field that also includes congressional and state races.
“We’ve had to fight in some markets to keep our spots in,” said Ellen Drury, managing partner and president of local broadcast for GroupM. One sure sign things are ramping up: TV stations are alerting her about inventory tightening up. “The first five months of the year, we didn’t get those calls,” she said.