Political Ad Spending

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Advertising Spend Breakdown: 2016 Presidential Election

The 2016 presidential election campaign accounted for nearly $9.8 to 10.2 billion of advertising spending. The campaign spending breakup by medium was found to be $4.4-$6.06 billion for TV broadcast, $1.1-$1.35 billion for cable TV, $1-$1.4 billion for digital media, $621-$830 million for radio, $656-$850 million for newspapers, and $343-$370 million for out-of-home campaigns.


  • According to Borrell Associates, the 2016 presidential election campaign accounted for nearly $9.8 billion in advertising spending. The campaign spending breakup by medium was found to be $4.4 billion for TV broadcast, $1.35 billion for cable TV, $1.4 billion for digital media, $621 million for radio, $301 million for direct mail, $656 million for newspapers, $607 million for telemarketing, $343 million for out-of-home, and $13.72 million for magazine campaign.
  • According to Statista, nearly $10.2 billion was spent during the 2016 election campaign season in the US. The campaign spending breakup by medium was found to be $6.06 billion for TV broadcast, $1.1 billion for cable TV, $1 billion for digital media, $850 million for the newspaper, $830 million for radio, and $370 million for out-of-home media.

Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump Campaign Spending

  • It is found that Clinton spent about $1.1 billion on advertising campaigns, similar to President Obama's campaign in 2012. Alternatively, Trump spent 30% of the budget on digital media with daily spending volume of $200k-300k over 150 days of the campaign.
  • The top five campaigns for Clinton with the highest spending amount were Hillary for America at $271 million, Priorities USA at $123 million, NextGen Action at $9 million, Vote Vets at $3.5 million, SEIU COPE at $2.4 million.
  • The top five campaigns for Trump with the highest spending amount were Trump Campaign at $92 million, Rebuilding America Now at $19 million, NRA at $17.5 million, 45Committee at $17 million, Future45 at $15 million.
  • As on November 2, 2016, Clinton’s election campaign had spent nearly $211.4 million on TV and radio advertising. Alternatively, Trump's campaign had spent only $74 million on the same.
  • Clinton’s campaign produced 38 televised ads from July 7 to October 25, 2016, while Trump's campaign released 17 TV ads from August to October 2016.
  • Clinton's campaign spending according to agency stood at GMMB at $59.86 million, Automatic Data Processing Inc at $15.62 million, Bully Interactive at $11.88 million, Executive Fitways at $6.08 million, and Cubine at $5.61 million.
  • Trump's campaign spending according to agency stood at Rick Reed Media at $19.60 million, Ace Specialties at $4.04 million, Wizbang Solutions at $2.02 million, Giles-Parscale at $1.95 million.
  • The breakdown of the amount raised for Clinton's campaign includes $623.1 million from Hillary Clinton's campaign, $598.2 million from party fundraising committees, and $204.4 million from Super PACs.
  • The breakdown of the amount raised for Trump's campaign includes $334.8 million from Donald Trump's campaign, $543.4 million from party fundraising committees, and $79.3 million from Super PACs

Broadcast TV, National Network, and National Cable

  • From June to October 2016, about 321,748 ad airings were aired on TV for Clinton and the team, while only 99,441 ads were aired for Trump and the group.
  • Top advertisers with the highest spending volumes of TV ads include Hillary Clinton with 340,745 airings at $219.3 million, Bernie Sanders with 128,494 airings at $76 million, Donald Trump with 101,849 airings at $76.6 million, Ted Cruz with 30,262 airings at $16.8 million.
  • Total number of ad airings and amount spending for election campaigns in 2016 stood at 920,070 airings at $760.9 million for presidential campaigns, 790,226 airings at $593.3 million for senate campaigns, 507,983 airings at $276.6 million for house representatives, 354,306 airings at $406 million for ballot measures, and 417,437 airings at $155 million for governor campaigns.

Local TV and Cable

  • Cable TV campaign spending accounted for nearly $1.35 billion, registering a growth of 52% over 2012.
  • It is noted that Clinton's campaign included 332,817 local TV ad airings from June to November 2016, while Trump featured only 25,000 campaign airings on local television.
  • Clinton's local TV campaign breakdown by region is as follows: Philadelphia (18,780 airings), Orlando (19,467 airings), Las Vegas (18,380 airings), Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville (16,285 airings), and Boston (16,577 airings).
  • As of November 2, 2016, the Trump campaign booked local cable advertising for the states of Michigan, Colorado, and Nevada.

Digital Media

  • Borrell Associates report that about $1.415 billion was spent on online advertising for the 2016 presidential elections at the local, state, and national level campaigns.
  • Digital advertising, like video, email, mobile, social, and search ads, reached $1.4 billion, registering a growth of 789% from $159 million in 2012.
  • It is found that social media accounted for nearly 40% of all digital ad spending in the 2016 presidential elections. Further, it is noted that Facebook was the biggest beneficiary among all digital media outlets

Radio and Direct Mail

  • The ad spending for direct mail campaigns stood at $301 million in 2016, registering an increase of 6% over 2012
  • In 2016, the radio campaign spending stood at $621 million, registering a fall of 23% over 2012 spending.
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Digital Advertising Spend Breakdown:

Expenditure on radio ads was $621 million, and this accounted for 6.3% of the total spending on political ads in the 2016 presidential election in the US. Digital advertising comprised 14.4% of the political ad spending in 2016. Twitter's ban on political ads will have an impact on digital advertising as it has helped in informing many voters of the ongoing events during the past presidential elections in the US.


  • The total political ad spending for the 2016 election amounted to $9.8 billion, up 4.6% from 2012.
  • The spending on radio ads for the 2016 election reached $621 million, which represented a 23% decrease from the 2012 election.
  • Based on the information above, we calculated that for the 2012 presidential election, radio ad spending totaled $806.6 million ($621 million/0.77) while the total political ad spending was $9.4 billion ($9.8 billion/1.046).
  • Therefore, radio ad spending accounted for 6.3% ($621 million/$9.8 billion) of the total political ad spending in the 2016 election and 6.8% ($806.6 million/$9.4 billion) in 2012.
  • Radio ad spending for the upcoming 2020 election cycle is expected to drop to $400 million out of $10 billion, accounting for only 4% ($400 million/$10 billion) of the total ad spending.
  • By contrast, digital advertising made up 1.7% of the political ad spending in 2012, 14.4% in 2016 and an is expected to reach 20% in 2020. This amounts to $159.8 million ($9.4 billion*0.017) in 2012, $1.4 billion ($9.8 billion*0.144) in 2016 and $2 billion ($10 billion*0.2) in 2020.
  • Television ad spending had a 58% share of the total political ad spending in 2012 and 45% in 2016. This amounts to $5.5 billion ($9.4 billion*0.54) in 2012 and $4.4 billion ($9.8 billion*0.45) in 2016.
  • In 2020, it is expected that the spending on broadcast and cable television ads will remain the same as the amount spent in the 2016 elections or $4.4 billion.

Money Spent on Digital Advertising

  • Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spent a total of $81 million on Facebook campaigns for the 2016 presidential election.
  • 44% of the voters in the US learned about the 2016 presidential election in the US from social media, while 24% of the voters got news from Trump and Hillary Clinton's posts on social media.
  • The Political Action Committee that campaigned against Trump spent $9.9 Million to digital media in a bid to reduce his popularity.

Advertising on Twitter

  • Michael Cornfield reports that Donald Trump's choice of words made him famous on social media and led to more retweets and followers on twitter.
  • The campaigns on twitter worked out for Trump, who won by small margins in some states after spending $5 million in these campaigns.
  • The twitter ban of political ads is likely to have a significant impact on digital advertising in the 2020 US presidential election.
  • Twitter is likely to record a decline in their profits, as Trump pointed out he was planning to spend $10,000 on twitter campaigns in 2020.

Research Strategy.

We researched through trusted media sites, including the New York Times and Guardian magazines, to find out the reports of digital advertising during the 2016 presidential campaigns in the US. We also perused through available articles on the internet that pointed out the impact of twitter on the presidential election in 2016. A percentage of adults followed news on the campaign and upcoming election through social media. Facebook and Twitter are the most commonly used platforms for digital advertising in the US presidential elections' campaigns. The information was readily available on the internet for public access, and there was no need for triangulation.

From Part 01
  • "Borrell Associates, which tracks and forecasts ad spending, said that a total of $1.415 billion was spent on online advertising by the local, state, and national campaigns this cycle."
  • "Borrell estimates that $2 out of every $5 spent on digital ads went to social media sites, with Facebook the biggest beneficiary."
  • "Overall, this cycle saw a campaign marketing increase of 4.6 percent over the 2012 presidential election with a total of $9.8 billion spent on advertising when local, state, and nationwide election spending is taken into account."
  • "Cable’s share of the ad pie grew by approximately 14 percent with some $1.35 billion spent while broadcast TV saw a decline in spending of almost 20 percent."
  • "For direct mail, spending on postage and handling went from $285 million in 2012 to $301 million in 2016 – an increase of close to 6 percent. "
  • "Meanwhile, telemarketing saw spending increase by roughly $3 million while its share of the ad market shrunk slightly from 6.4 to 6.2 percent, according to Borrell’s figures."
  • "The Clinton campaign vastly outspent the Trump campaign in terms of TV ad buys. As of Oct. 25, 2016, Clinton’s campaign had spent between US$142 and $172 million on TV and radio during the general election. In addition to Hillary for America’s spending, Super PACs and other outside support groups spent $103 million."
  • "Although the Trump campaign increased its ad spending in the final weeks of the campaign, it didn’t top the Clinton budget in terms of overall spending. As of Nov. 2, 2016, Clinton had spent $211.4 million in TV ads, while Trump had spent only $74 million."
  • "Clinton’s campaign organization, Hillary for America, produced 38 televised ads between July 7 and Oct. 25. Over half of Clinton’s ads overtly attacked Trump, frequently using the words and images of Trump as ammunition."
  • "Of the 17 ads released by his campaign from August through late October, six were categorized as character attacks. In “Immigration,” “Economy,” “Dangerous” and “Change,” the Trump campaign contrasted the character of the candidates. "
  • "The top spender in the campaign was Hillary Clinton, who spent approximately $200 million on her media campaigns. Her closest competitor and the current president, Donald Trump, only spent $70 million on his media campaigns."
  • "If we analyze Clinton’s expenditure, we will find that the money went to a couple of firms. GMMB earned $59,865,270. Automatic Data Processing Inc earned $15,620,651. Bully Interactive earned $11,882,761. Executive Fitways received $6,079,940. Moreover, others including Chapman, Cubine earned a collective sum of $5,611,839."
  • "On analyzing his expenditure, it was found that Rick Reed Media earned $19,602,182. Ace Specialties earned $4,041,466. Wizbang Solutions earned $2,024,443. Giles-Parscale, the firm which is owned by his head of the digital campaign, Brad Parscale, earned about $1,958,872."
  • "Radio was also way down -- by 23% to $621 million. "
  • "Digital advertising, which includes video ads, mobile, email, social and search, broke the billion dollar mark, reaching $1.4 billion, and growing a staggering 789% from $159 million in 2012. "
  • "Cable television, which saw a steep increase of 52% to $1.35 billion in 2016, now accounts for around the same size slice of the pie as digital. Direct mail -- the political ad world's legacy data-driven medium -- also rose, around 6% to $301 million."
From Part 02
  • "According to their survey, 44% of the U.S. adults got information about the 2016 presidential election from social media. That is more than the percentage cited for either local or national print newspapers or for candidate websites and emails combined. "
  • "Hillary Clinton, the former Democratic candidate who lost to Mr Trump in the 2016 presidential election, welcomed Twitter's ban and appeared to challenge Facebook to rethink its stance."
  • "The campaign and Republican party spent about $5m in get-out-the-vote digital advertising targeted in the final few days to Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida. It proved critical; some of those states were won by razor-thin margins."
  • "Hailing himself as “modern day presidential,” Trump’s success and popularity is largely due to his internet presence. In the months leading up to the presidential election, it was reported that “as much as 45% of Trump’s campaign budget in a given month [was] devoted to digital outreach and research”. "
  • "President Donald Trump’s campaign said Twitter Inc.’s decision this week to ban political ads means the company will lose more than $10 million that it planned to spend on the social media platform."
  • "The campaign paid about $2m for private jets and $500,000 to pay for expenses on Trump’s personal plane. Last month, Trump paid more than $773,000 to companies he owns; since the beginning of the race, his campaign has paid more than $7.5m to Trump companies or those owned by family members."