The race for airtime in battleground states is well underway.
Ad spending is currently flooding markets in a slew of presidential battleground states with point totals well beyond what many media buyers were expecting at this stage of the game. Between Super PACs and early spending from the campaigns of President Obama and Mitt Romney, prime ad space is being snatched up quickly.
“It’s unheard of that you’re having this conversation in June,” says Brian Nick, media strategist at the Republican firm Strategic Perception.
Earlier this week, Obama placed another $14 million buy, which has the campaign on the air through July 2 in nine battleground states. The Romney camp went up with another $3.3 million buy, and Crossroads GPS is spending close to $4 million on the airwaves in key states through June 17.
To date, the Obama campaign has spent some $57 million. Crossroads GPS has spent more than $24 million, and the Romney campaign has spent some $11 million, according to ad buy data from SMG-Delta.
As the fall nears and the ad spending binge continues, Nick warns: “If you’re somebody in a down ballot race, you’re going to have a difficult time getting a good space in terms of inventory with shows people actually watch … The people who have the most money speak the loudest in these situations.”
Some of the heaviest ad volume to date has come in Virginia and North Carolina—states Obama won four years ago and the White House wants to keep in play through the fall. Here are five battleground state media markets already overloaded with ads:
1. Roanoke-Lynchburg: With Virginia in the toss-up category, early spending in the Roanoke market has skyrocketed. NOVA and, to a certain extent, the state’s Eastern Shore now lean left, so Virginia’s fence-sitters are seen to reside in the southwest part of the state, says Scott Martin, general sales manager at WSLS-TV, Roanoke’s NBC affiliate. Over the past four weeks, the ad market tops the charts with more than 12,000 GRPs bought.
“We didn’t see this coming,” Martin says of the early ad spending. “We didn’t structure the rates for it, and it’s causing more issues for regular advertisers right now.”
2. Columbus, Ohio: To date, the Obama and Romney campaigns have pumped more ad money into Ohio than any other state—Obama spending close to $13 million and Romney around $3.7 million. Columbus is one of the state’s most contested ad markets, with some 11,600 points bought since mid-May.
“It’s very strong compared to other election cycles,” says Chuck Devendra, director of sales for 10TV, the CBS affiliate in Columbus. The way the numbers are going, Devendra says he expects an active third quarter as other federal candidates start getting into the ad mix.
3. Greensboro-High Point, N.C.: When it comes to volume, Greensboro has topped the list among North Carolina’s media markets for most of the past month seeing more than 11,000 total points between all advertisers. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns have spent there, along with Crossroads GPS. Last week, the Romney campaign placed its largest buy in the Greensboro-High Point market—just shy of 1,500 GRPs.
4. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: The Cedar Rapids market was an early target for the Obama campaign and has now turned into one of the most active battleground state markets in the country. Cedar Rapids featured the second highest point total last week next to the Columbus market. Over the past month, the market has seen more than 10,600 total points.
5. Colorado Springs, Colo.: While many of the ad markets currently the topping the list in terms of point totals are in Virginia, North Carolina or Ohio, Colorado is sure to be another major battleground for ads through November. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns are on the air in the state with general market broadcast buys, as well as Hispanic media buys. Earlier this week, the president’s local TV interview blitz included chats with local anchors in Roanoke, Va. and Colorado Springs. Since the week of May 14, the Colorado Springs market has seen close to 9,000 points booked.