The battle for the Supreme Court begins

With the recent announcement of Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, and the subsequent nomination Brett Kavanaugh as his replacement, Supreme Court ad activity is now underway. We define Supreme Court advertising as ads that make mention of the Supreme Court as an institution, vacancies, nominations and Supreme Court cases.

Kantar Media/CMAG has already monitored advertising from several groups. Demand Justice and the ACLU are running ads attempting to get Republican Senators Collins and Murkowski to oppose the nominee. Missouri Republican Senate candidate, Josh Hawley, is openly referencing the nomination in a recent ad claiming incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill wishes to see liberals nominated to the Court. Conversely, Judicial Crisis Network is running ads in support of the nomination. 

These are just the first salvos in what is likely to be a very loud 60-90 days as hearings get underway. We examined previous Supreme Court focused ad activity in preparation for what we expect to be an onslaught of upcoming advertising leading into the midterms.

Supreme Court Advertising Race

Following the passing of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia on February 13, 2016, there was a large spike in Supreme Court advertising activity on TV. From the time the vacancy was created until Election Day on November 8, 2016 an estimated $56.7 million was spent on Supreme Court related advertising. Kantar Media/CMAG monitored nearly 50,000 TV occurrences during this time period, which were made up of 92 creatives from 41 sponsors.

The biggest spikes in activity occurred immediately after Scalia passed away and in the weeks leading up to the election, with a bit of a lull in between.

The majority of advertising came from Republicans, who accounted for 71% of Supreme Court ads. The top Republican sponsors for the measured period were the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, Conservative Solutions PAC and Judicial Crisis Network. The top Democratic sponsors for the same period were Senate Majority PAC, Independence USA PAC and House Majority PAC. In the last eight weeks of the election, Republicans aired more than twice as many Supreme Court spots as Democrats.

The power to appoint the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court was a pressing issue for both sides in Presidential advertising in 2016, however the topic was mentioned even more in US senate advertising targeting key states including Missouri, New Hampshire and Nevada.

What’s next to come?

With Kennedy’s retirement impending at the end of July 2018, groups on both sides of the aisle are just beginning to make their arguments for the next Supreme Court appointee. The midterm elections are fast approaching, and with the shorter time period to make a case, it’s not likely we will see the same respite in Supreme Court advertising that we monitored in 2016.

Kantar Media/CMAG will continue tracking activity on the groups, markets, advertising spend and occurrences in the coming weeks. Contact us today for more information to stay up-to-date on all political advertising.

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