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Map of TV media markets for the continental U.S., from Dishuser.org
Campaign advertising has already reached avalanche levels this year, but where are ads piling up the deepest? The Washington Post's Reid Wilson has compiled a list of the five media markets that have seen the most ad spending in the first half of the year, and the surprise at the top is Denver. That's thanks to not only to Colorado's competitive Senate race but also the hotly contested battle for the state's 6th Congressional District. (Wilson's figures includes future ad reservations as well.)
Denver is followed by Tampa—mostly because of the adpocalypse related to the 13th District special election earlier this year—then Detroit, Anchorage and Little Rock, all of which are in states with top Senate races. Wilson's rankings are based on the total number of dollars, though; if you factor in how expensive each market is, the thickest ad density has to be in dirt-cheap Anchorage, not populous-and-pricey Denver.
Indeed, the world of media buying is an arcane and complicated one, even when thinking about statewide races, and even more so when thinking about what markets overlap which congressional districts. To help make that a little easier, we've created a helpful guide that you'll want to bookmark.
Our database details which media markets are found in each state and each district as well as the reverse—that is, which states and districts are found in each market. We also go one step further, breaking everything down by percentage. Just as an example, now you can know that all of Alabama's 1st District is in the Mobile market, but the larger Mobile market is almost evenly split between Alabama's 1st and Florida's 1st, just over the border. (Mobile's market also encompasses little bits and pieces of three other districts.)
There are a few other details to be aware of. Even though it's heavily targeted with ad dollars, we don't include Alaska in our analysis, since the state's three media markets (Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau) don't have hard-and-fast boundaries the way they do in the lower 48; in fact, most of the state, geographically speaking, doesn't fall in any media market at all.
And you might observe that in Washington, D.C. isn't included in the district-to-market tab, but it is included in the market-to-district tab. That's because if you advertise for a race in state or district covered by the Washington market, you're still paying to reach those 600,000 people in D.C. proper, regardless of their disenfranchisement.
Like we said, it's complex. But if you keep our spreadsheet handy, it'll help you make sense of all the political advertising destined to come our way this year.