Battleground states see political ads for president boom

Ad dollars are flooding into battleground states as the race between President Trump and Joe Biden nears the end.
19 October 2020
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Rachel Gursky

Content Marketing Director, Kantar, US

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Mere weeks ahead of Election Day, a global pandemic continues apace, an economic and social justice crisis continues to roil the country and one of the most contentious Presidential races in American history is on the horizon. There has already been record turnout for early voting, however the candidates are still spending big to sway those who have not yet cast their ballots. Kantar data shows an infusion of ad dollars in key battlegrounds where President Trump and former Vice President Biden are going head to head.

We looked at how the two campaigns are performing in crucial markets in the run up to the election.

Spending heavy in Florida markets

From September 1, 2020 through Election Day, we have tracked $932 million in presidential campaign ads across TV and radio, including future bookings, more than 60% of all ad spend supporting the presidential race since January 2019. The majority of spend since September 1 has been from ads backing democratic candidate Joe Biden – $581 million or 62% of all ad dollars. Ads backing President Trump during this time total $352 million.

Democratic ads are leading the way for spend in each of the top five markets. As a notorious battleground, money has been pouring into Florida, with the state being home to three of the top five markets.


It’s not unusual to see action in the I-4 corridor, which includes Orlando and Tampa, as that is where most of the undecided votes in Florida tend to be concentrated. What we have found of note this election cycle is that there has been over $24 million spent in Florida on Spanish language broadcast TV from January 2019 through Election Day 2020, which is being used to reach the large Puerto Rican, Cuban and Venezuelan populations in the state. Orlando has seen nearly $5 million spent on Spanish language broadcast TV during this time, compared to less than $1 million during the entire 2016 presidential election cycle. Many ads this term have been focused on Puerto Rican immigrants many of whom relocated there after Hurricane Maria in 2017. 

Miami has topped $15 million in Spanish language network advertising after seeing only $3 million spent throughout the 2016 cycle. Though the Biden campaign has been outspending the Trump campaign to reach this demographic, President Trump recently extended relief to Puerto Rico and the island’s Republican Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced recently unexpectedly endorsed him and urged Puerto Ricans living in the states to vote for the incumbent.  

While we typically see a lot of political activity in Orlando and Tampa, it is uncommon for Miami to land at the top in presidential years. Recent polls have shown Biden ahead in South Florida. However, his lead is short of then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s 30-point victory there in 2016.

Phoenix surprises with big investments

It’s a first for Phoenix to rank as a top market for presidential ad spending, but as 2020 is full of surprises, this Top 20 market is currently number two for expenditures just behind Orlando with over $50 million in spend. Once a heavily leaning Republican state, Arizona has become the new Nevada in that it’s a key swing state with more Purple tendencies and many transplants relocating to the area, as well as a heavily Democratic-leaning Hispanic population who had a sizeable voter turnout in 2018. Most voters in Arizona are in Maricopa County where Phoenix is located placing critical significance on the area.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as important as ever

Philadelphia rounds out the top five with nearly $46 million of expenditures from September 1 through Election Day. As the biggest metropolitan area in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and its suburbs are a crucial market that can determine the outcome for the state and be a tipping point for candidates. Biden and his supporters have spent double than Republican advertisers during this time, an advantage which is notable given Trump won the state by less than one percentage point in 2016. But, being outspent on TV advertising is nothing new to the Trump campaign.  

With less than three weeks to go, it’s still anybody’s race. Biden is leading in ad spend, as well as in the polls, however as we saw in 2016, ad investments and voter polls aren’t always indicative of the outcome. Time will tell if the extra advertising efforts from Democrats can help facilitate a victory for Joe Biden. 

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