When you spend $11 million on Super Bowl advertising -- back in February -- it signals you have major dollars to spend. And that has been the case: The Trump campaign raised $1 billion from donors.
So The New York Times wonders now: How did the Trump re-election campaign blow $800 million of the $1 billion? It pointed to some extravagant spending -- and rising legal bills -- but not actual media buys.
The Super Bowl buy was perhaps a hubris move -- all to compete with the potential candidacy of Democrat Michael Bloomberg -- who shelled out for the big game buy. The result? Bloomberg’s Democratic candidacy fizzled. And then the COVID-19 pandemic came around to disrupt almost everything.
Not everyone was surprised about the Trump campaign’s media-spending issues.
Advertising Analytics pointed out that former Vice President Joe Biden prepped a $25 million buy for the NFL recently -- but nothing for Trump. Another signal: For the week of August 29 to September 4, Biden spent $21.8 million in total TV buys, with just $4.7 million from Trump -- all in with just eight weeks to go before the election.
The Trump campaign now says it is holding on to money to be spent in the next eight weeks in key battleground states. But the problem is that original estimates were five or so battleground states. Growing polls for Biden -- and weaker numbers for Trump -- now say some 15 states are in play.
If you are short of cash, the last thing you need is to spread around lesser amounts of money you don't have to begin with.
The positive: in 2016, Trump didn’t ramp up any big political spending until around the beginning of September -- just about that time now.
The negative: Trump used live rally events in 2016 -- which some major TV networks, like Fox News Channel, covered almost in their entirety -- all to garner big “earned media” impressions. That may be tougher to come by now.
And here is the worst part: Trump may have to spend his own money to fund big media campaigns -- in the hopes of attracting more donor money. Trump said on Tuesday he will do what is necessary to win. But that may be just a tease. At the end of the day, who will really pay those media bills?
Trump's campaign is also counting on door-to-door campaigners to get out his vote.
The question is whether voters will be opening doors to speak to them face to face -- we can only assume, with no face masks -- in November. That's when another round of COVID-19 is set to pounce on many U.S. states -- again.
The answer is to buy some Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, or as much local TV news programming as possible in many key states.
Warning for media sellers? Get paid in advance.