NBC and its partner Advertising Analytics have updated their TV-ad-spending numbers for the general election. You may remember that in June we marveled at how Donald Trump had still not spent a dime on general-election ads; by June of 2012, Mitt Romney and PACs supporting him had spent $38 million.
So prepare to marvel once again. Trump's campaign still hasn't spent any money on general-election ads. PACs supporting him have spent a little over $12 million — less than one-third of what had been spent for Romney two months prior in 2012. It's also one-fifth of what the Hillary Clinton campaign has spent. And outside groups have spent another $43 million on her behalf. In other words, this is still the correct ranking for ad spending by presidential campaign for each of the four best-known candidates:
- Hillary Clinton (Democratic): $61 million
- Jill Stein (Green): $189,000
- Gary Johnson (Libertarian): $15,000
- Donald Trump (Republican): $0
The natural question here is: What's Trump spending his money on? We don't really know yet, as we noted last week. We only have spending totals by category broken down through June. We created a graph that shows how much Trump has spent each month and where it went:
These are our categories, not his, so there's some estimation at play. "Rent," for example, includes rent, utilities and furniture. "Advertising" includes digital, mail and TV, to the extent that Trump does these things. He advertised some in the primaries, which is why the red bars mostly cut off in April. Management is lots of consulting fees, unless those fees are clearly related to another category, such as fundraising consulting.
People asked how Trump's spending compared with Clinton's, so we made the same chart for her, with the same broad categories.
Lots more red; lots more spending on advertising. Her ad-spending dropped off in May, too, but picked right back up for the general.
Remember: The NBC-Advertising Analytics data suggests that the July numbers that are released won't show any significant ad spending for Trump. Television ads are expensive to make and expensive to run and eat up a lot of a campaign's ad spending. This is another reason that Trump's foot-dragging is so weird: Television stations are selling ads to all comers, including Senate and House candidates. Supply goes down, cost goes up — and availability goes down, too. If Trump wants to target ads on a certain channel at a certain time, he should reserve that spot as soon as possible. The nonsensical argument from supporters that he doesn't want to tip his hand on his ad spending completely is like saying that you don't want people to know your musical chairs strategy, so you're not going to run as soon as the music stops. Those chairs are going to be gone.
Note something else here: The scale of the Clinton and Trump graphs is not the same. If we put them on the same scale, the imbalance between the two campaigns becomes even more stark.
Clinton spent more on advertising in June than Trump spent on his entire campaign for May, June and half of April.
Trump's campaign simply doesn't look like past presidential campaigns, which he would probably argue is a good thing. The grand experiment to run a new type of political campaign, though, has him trailing nationally, trailing in every swing state from 2012 and losing in states Romney won in 2012.
If you're going to judge Trump's spending/advertising strategy, that's worth pointing out.