Georgia runoffs helped an Atlanta TV station gross nearly $232 million in political advertising in less than two years

William of England
By William of England 3 Min Read

Local stations are not complaining about the fluke. One of them, ABC affiliate WSB-TV, leads the nation in political advertising this year with $86 million so far. That figure rises to nearly $232 million when you look at the period from January 1, 2020 to November 28 of this year, according to ad tracker AdImpact.

During that time, Georgia held several key Senate elections that went to the ballot. Under Georgia law, if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote on Nov. 8, they run for the Senate will go to the ballot.

The current Senate ballot, between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker, will be decided when voters go to the polls on Tuesday. (Surveys show Warnock up front, with a hearty drive in ad spend also.) In January of last year, two more races were decided in the Georgia ballots, with wins by Warnock and Jon Ossoff giving Democrats control of the Senate.

Increase in ad spend for runoff elections

The Senate election was high-profile by itself, but the runoffs meant an even bigger windfall for TV stations.

“Not only did they have more competitive races, but then they took one more bite of the apple,” political analyst Ken Goldstein told the Wall Street Journalwhich Saturday reported on AdImpact numbers.

Adding to this year’s windfall was the high-profile gubernatorial race between Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. While Kemp won handily, Abrams attracted major funding, which went into television advertising.

It was a good stretch not only for WSB-TV, owned by the Cox Media Group, but other stations in the area as well. Three Atlanta stations were in the top five nationally for political spending between January 1, 2020 and November 28 of this year, according to AdImpact.

Nationally, an estimated $8.9 billion has been spent so far this year on local, state and federal elections. The final amount could eclipse the $9 billion spent in the 2020 presidential cycle, according to AdImpact, thanks to the blowout of the Georgia runoff.

That blast saw $79 million used to buy airtime during the four-week runoff period, according to an NPR analysis of AdImpact data released this week.

But for many voters in Georgia, advertising makes little difference. As one said to the magazine, “No advertising is changing anything. It’s a waste of money. It’s just noise.”

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