Biden dramatically outspends Trump on TV ads during Republican convention week

Biden campaign spends millions on television, while Trump goes digital.

August 26, 2020, 11:53 AM

As more than 70 speakers and thousands of supporters get together this week to officially name President Donald Trump the Republican nominee and boost him for the upcoming November election, the Trump campaign is being dramatically outspent by the Biden campaign in the rivals' ever-growing television advertising wars.

The move by the Trump campaign to go conservative with its ad spending during the convention week is a stark turn for a campaign that previously promised to unleash a "Death Star"-level onslaught on its Democratic opponent leading up to Election Day.

From Tuesday through next Monday, the Trump campaign has spent just under $1.5 million on television ads -- mostly on national cable -- compared to more than $17 million that the Biden campaign has placed for the week, according to ad-buy data from ad analysis firm CMGA/Kantar media. More national cable buy from Trump is expected this week, but not likely to surpass Biden’s placements, according to CMAG.

And the week of the Democratic National Convention last week was no different. The Biden campaign had more than $15.3 million on air while the Trump campaign only had about $1.8 million.

As it did during last week’s Democratic convention, the Trump campaign has instead invested in digital advertising during the RNC, taking over YouTube’s front page banner and flooding Facebook and Google with pro-Trump messaging.

It’s unclear how much the two campaigns’ total digital spending is going to be by the end of the week, but the Trump campaign in general has been leading the Biden campaign on the digital front. An outlier in the trend was actually during the DNC, when the Biden campaign spent about $6 million on Facebook ads compared to just under $5 million from the Trump campaign, according to Facebook ad spending data.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence stand on stage during the first day of the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Aug. 24, 2020.
Andrew Harnik/AP

Mitchell West, an ad data analyst at CMAG, told ABC News that now that the Democratic convention is over, Biden is using this week to “go really heavy” and get his message out there while Trump is staying relatively quiet on television.

“Usually it’s the other way around, [where] maybe Democrats will stay quiet during the Republican convention, or vice versa,” West said. “It’s hard to tell what Trump’s thinking… I don't know whether he's trying to keep the focus on the convention. I don't know whether he's retooling his messaging. I just don't know. I do find it kind of strange that he is going relatively quiet during the convention.”

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment for this report.

In the past few weeks leading up to the both parties’ conventions, from late July through the end of August, the Biden campaign has spent about $75 million on broadcast ads, nearly five times the $17 million that the Trump campaign has spent.

The Trump campaign’s relative skeleton amount placements this week are focused on roughly half-a-million-dollar national cable and $171,000 in local cable in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, the Biden campaign has spent seven-figures in some of the key states including Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Arizona and Michigan.

When it comes to outside groups like political action committees (PACs), pro-Trump super PACs have been more aggressive than some of the pro-Biden super PACs over the past few weeks.

This week, the super PAC arm of the National Rifle Association has more than $2 million booked for television spots for this week, and conservative super PAC Club for Growth has about $1.4 million. America First Action, the super PAC that has been endorsed by the president and the campaign, has a little less than $1 million.

Pro-Democratic super PACs American Bridge PAC and Priorities USA Action each have $1.2 million and $1 million for TV ads this week, while anti-Trump group the Lincoln Project has $1.7 million booked.

American Bridge PAC announced on Monday that its latest ad scheduled to run during the convention this week will feature the president’s former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, celebrate with fireworks during the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention, Aug. 20, 2020, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del.
Andrew Harnik/AP

Overall, pro-Biden efforts, including the campaign and outside groups, have spent nearly twice the amount spent by pro-Trump efforts on television ads from late July through the end of August, with a particularly reserved efforts from the Trump campaign countered by an aggressive ad blitz from the Biden campaign.

From September and on, however, it’s expected to be a different picture, with much higher figures involved all around.

The Trump campaign has already placed nearly $150 million on TV ads for the last couple months until Election Day, while the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Convention together have about $113 million, according to CMAG data. In total, pro-Trump efforts have booked about $173 million from September through Election Day, while pro-Biden efforts have about $151 million.

And the $113 million ad already booked amounts to only part of some $280 million that the Biden campaign said it planned to spend for the fall.

The Trump campaign had long promised to use its massive cash-on-had advantage to define whoever the Democratic nominee ended up being. But in recent weeks that financial advantage has all but evaporated, with Biden and the Democratic National Committee ending last month with $294 million in the bank -- only $6 million behind the roughly $300 million the president and the Republican National Committee said they have in their war chest, according to figures released by the two campaigns.

Back in July, amid staffing shake up, the Trump campaign briefly pulled its advertising in order to reset on strategy. They would later go back up targeting early voting states.

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