Las Vegas topped campaign ad spending in U.S.; so where did the money go?

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Campaign spending on traditional media in Las Vegas topped the nation in the 2018 midterm, and Nevada ranked second in TV and radio advertising, with local stations in Las Vegas reaping $103 million in revenue, according to a report from Advertising Analytics.  

But how much of that money remains in the state economy?  Likely not much.

Advertising Analytics reports campaigns and third-party groups spent $136.1 million on traditional media (TV, cable, radio and targeted forms, including digital ads) in Las Vegas alone. Orlando-Daytona came in second with $128.8 million, followed by Tampa at $117 million, Los Angeles at $112.2 million and New York at $107.4 million.

Among the states, Florida campaigns and groups spent the most — $473.2 million on traditional ads, followed by California at $200.8 million and Nevada at $190.2 million.

Nationwide, campaigns spent $3.2 billion on traditional ads in the midterms.  Advertising Analytics reports 75.5 percent of that money went to broadcast, 20.4 percent to cable, 2.3 percent to radio and 1.7 percent to mail pieces.  

Just under $3 billion went to television, according to the Television Bureau of Advertising.  Of that, Democratic candidates and groups spent $1.5 billion (52.3 percent), Republicans spent $1.3 billion (47.5 percent) and independents spent $5.8 million (0.2 percent). TV ad spending in the 2016 general election reached $4.4 billion.  

Advertising Analytics says “Democratic messaging was heavily concentrated on healthcare — they aired nearly 1 million broadcast ads on the issue. Republican messaging was more mixed, but focused mostly on Taxes and the Economy.”  

The U.S. Senate race between Jacky Rosen and Dean Heller generated $78 million in total advertising, the fourth highest amount of any Senate race in the nation.

TV stations in Nevada took in $55 million on the U.S. Senate race, according to the report.

Broadcast spending on Nevada’s gubernatorial race was $44 million, the sixth highest in the nation.  

None of the House of Representatives races in the Silver State broke into the top ten for broadcast ad spending.  

Florida’s gubernatorial race was the most expensively advertised contest in the country at $181 million, followed by that state’s U.S. Senate race at $173 million.

Where does the money go?

Nevada’s television stations are primarily owned by out-of-state broadcasting companies – Gray Television, Sinclair, Nexstar, E.W. Scripps, Meredith and Sarkes Tarzian — so it’s likely the bulk of the profits will be shipped elsewhere.  

Larry Strumwasser, general manager of KSNV, the Sinclair station in Las Vegas, says he’s not at liberty to disclose how much revenue the station generated nor how it’s spent.

“It was a robust political season,” says Strumwasser, noting Sinclair is “a huge company with 185 stations, at last count, in 89 markets.”

Ad agencies, many of them local, reap a 15 percent commission for buying TV spots on behalf of clients.  But not in all cases.

When it comes to big contracts, everyone and anyone can be in line for a cut.

“Agencies aren’t getting 15 percent on multi-million dollar buys in House and Senate races,” says longtime Las Vegas ad man and political consultant Tom Letizia.  “Commissions are negotiated — usually with consultants. Sometimes the agency and consultant split it. Sometimes a cut goes to the national party, sometimes it goes back to the campaign. With a PAC, the guy who sets it up decides where it goes and makes the deal.”

Campaign consultants are sometimes local, but are increasingly from out of state.  J3 Strategies, which worked for the campaigns of Laxalt and Michael Roberson, the unsuccessful Republican candidate for Lt. Governor, is based in Nevada. Its principle, Robert Uithoven, ran Jim Gibbons’ successful 2006 campaign for governor.  November Inc., which worked for the losing campaigns of  Republican U.S. Senator Dean Heller,  Roberson and Republican Attorney General candidate Wes Duncan, has offices in Las Vegas and in Washington, D.C. Winner & Mandabach, which worked on NV Energy’s successful $63 million campaign to defeat the “Energy Choice” initiative, is based in Santa Monica, Calif. 

The Top five markets for traditional media spending (Source: Advertising Analytics)

  1. Las Vegas, NV: $136.1 million
  2. Orlando-Daytona $128.8 million
  3. Tampa $117 million
  4. Los Angeles $112.2 million
  5. New York $107.4 million

The Top 10 overall TV ad markets 

  1. Orlando/Daytona Beach/Melbourne, FL: $110 million
  2. Las Vegas, NV: $103 million
  3. Los Angeles: $101 million
  4. Chicago: $100 million
  5. Tampa/St Pete/Sarasota: $99 million
  6. New York, NY: $96 million
  7. Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, FL: $80 million
  8. Phoenix, AZ: $75 million
  9. Detroit, MI: $74 million
  10. Philadelphia, PA: $70 million

The Top 10 outside spenders

  1. Congressional Leadership Fund (R): $110 million
  2. Senate Majority PAC (D): $105 million
  3. DCCC (D): $80.5 million
  4. Senate Leadership Fund (R): $67 million
  5. NRCC (R): $60 million
  6. House Majority PAC (D): $56 million
  7. Majority Forward (D): $52 million
  8. New Republican PAC (R): $30 million
  9. Independence USA (D-Bloomberg): $27 million
  10. One Nation (R): $26.6 million

Top 10 Senate races

  1. FL-SEN: $173 million
  2. MO-SEN: $94 million
  3. IN-SEN: $91 million
  4. NV-SEN: $78 million
  5. AZ-SEN: $74 million
  6. TN-SEN: $63 million
  7. TX-SEN: $50 million
  8. NJ-SEN: $47 million
  9. MT-SEN: $46 million
  10. WV-SEN: $44 million

Top 10 House races

  1. PA-1: $24 million
  2. WA-8: $23 million
  3. CA-48: $21.5 million
  4. MI-8: $21 million
  5. VA-10: $20 million
  6. FL-26: $20 million
  7. CA-25: $19.7 million
  8. TX-7: $19.4 million
  9. CA-10: $19.3 million
  10. CO-6: $18.9 million

Top 9 GOV races

  1. FL-GOV: $181 million
  2. IL-GOV: $128 million
  3. OH-GOV: $63 million
  4. MI-GOV: $58 million
  5. GA-GOV: $48 million
  6. NV-GOV: $44 million
  7. TN-GOV: $41 million
  8. PA-GOV: $28 million
  9. ID-GOV: $6.4 million      
Dana Gentry
Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana is the mother of four adult children, three cats, three dogs and a cockatoo.

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