2021 breaks political ad spending record as most expensive off-election year ever

Campaigns, party committees, and outside groups shelled out an eye-popping $1.23 billion this year to run political ads on television, digital and radio, according to new data from AdImpact, a top national ad tracking firm.

Off-election years – the calendar years between presidential and midterm elections – have traditionally been relatively sedate when it comes to the political ad wars, but 2021 was anything but quiet.

The price tag so far for 2021 far exceeds $425 million spent in 2017 on ad spending. It even eclipses the $1.08 billion dished out in 2019, when roughly $405 million was spent on ads during the early and middle stages of the 2020 presidential primary campaign.

Besides the regularly scheduled statewide contests in Virginia and New Jersey as well as key mayoral elections across the country, 2021 started with Georgia’s twin Senate runoffs, included six special congressional elections for vacant House seats, and a gubernatorial recall election in California, the nation’s most populous state.