Media Spending Insights: Virginia Governor’s Race Nears $40 Million

All eyes are on Virginia and tomorrow’s tight gubernatorial election between Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam. What once seemed to be a comparatively low-key affair has escalated to a nearly $40 million slugfest, with 40% of general election spending happening in the last two weeks alone.

Using our Insights On Air competitive media analytics platform, we teamed up with Medium Buying to track $38,853,061 of general election spending over 2,685 ad flights, breaking down the rapid pace of media spending in Virginia as the race nears its conclusion.

Some takeaways from our analysis:

  • Team Gillespie edges out Team Northam in overall spending for the general election through this weekend — $19,570,871 to $19,282,190 — a 50.4%-49.6% advantage.
  • A near-draw in spending has translated to a 53.5–46.5% Gillespie share of voice advantage, as measured by broadcast gross rating points (GRPs) weighted to the share of the vote each media market cast in the 2013 gubernatorial election. This is primarily due to Northam’s greater reliance on the Washington, D.C. media market, where more impressions are wasted on voters in D.C. and Maryland.
  • In contrast to many competitive federal elections, the paid media environment has been driven almost exclusively by the candidates themselves — who have spent more 90% of the total dollars in this race.
  • Team Gillespie has led the share of voice battle for all but one day since October 18th, while Northam led earlier in the race, from September 26 to October 17. Team Northam has drawn close to parity in the final week of the campaign.
  • Spending patterns match expected voting patterns, with Team Gillespie dominating media markets in the Southwest and Shenandoah Valley, and Team Northam leading in one media market, the state’s largest — Washington, D.C. Gillespie holds a slight 52–48% spending advantage in the state’s two other major markets, Norfolk and Richmond.
  • Using our Predictive Spot-Level Intelligence tool, we analyzed which TV placements are preferred by each campaign. NFL football is the most popular non-news advertising destination, and one more likely to be favored by the Gillespie campaign. Late night is also a preferred spot for the Gillespie campaign — with the exception of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Consistent with other Democratic campaigns, daytime programming tends to lean towards Northam.

This analysis was produced blending competitive data from Medium Buying with spot level and pricing data from Echelon’s Insights On Air platform, which informs smarter political media targeting with precise ad placement data down to the spot level for virtually every election in the country. Learn more about us at EchelonInsights.com and more about Medium Buying at MediumBuyingLLC.com.