Ultra-visible on the ground, Donald Trump is much more discreet in television commercials than his Democratic rival Joe Biden, leading in the polls, in a US presidential campaign that will however shatter advertising spending records.
As of November 3, the long-awaited election day, the former vice-president of Barack Obama will have spent twice as much as the Republican billionaire on television ads, according to data compiled since September 1 by the specialized firm Advertising Analytics.
Even more striking, Donald Trump has since the start of the school year "either completely or greatly, reduced the funds invested in television spots" in key states which could decide the winner in two weeks, underlines John Link, vice-president of Ad Analytics: in the Midwest (Iowa, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin) and in Pennsylvania, in particular.
However, it is thanks to victories on the wire in several of these states that Donald Trump had won his surprise victory in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. And the Republican president is now struggling in the polls.
The Trump team has certainly reinvested part of these funds in other states of the "Sun Belt", in the south, such as Florida, which will be crucial to win the White House, and Georgia. "But his total weekly expenses are reduced," John Link analyzes.
Joe Biden has instead extended the map of his investments in less traditional states for a Democrat, such as Georgia, which has not voted Democrat in the presidential election since 1992.
Clever strategy because he does not need these expenses, as Donald Trump asserts, or a sign that his coffers are empty? The trend is "risky" anyway, according to John Link.
Television spots, particularly on major national channels, "have the most impact because they reach the widest audience," he underlines. They thus make it possible to better reach the rare, and very courted, voters who have not yet decided for whom to vote, in particular by addressing seniors.
Proof of the importance of advertising? The "historical" amount of expenditure expected by Advertising Analytics, advises John Link: "between 2.75 billion and 2.8 billion dollars".
This budget includes the extraordinary expenses already recorded during the Democratic primary, when billionaire Michael Bloomberg spent lavishly to finance his unsuccessful candidacy.
- "We will win" -
"It doesn't make sense to broadcast TV spots in states where we know we're going to win," Samantha Zager, a spokesperson for Donald Trump's campaign team, told AFP.
The Republican relies on an ultra-precise database of American voters, which allows him to use the spots "in the most strategic, surgical way possible," she says.
And Donald Trump had already spent less than Hillary Clinton four years ago.
It "may be time for the mainstream media to accept our winning strategy and begin to wonder why Joe Biden is spending unnecessarily on TV spots," says Samantha Zager.
- Biden "richer" -
Except this time, the tempestuous Republican does not have as much free media coverage on the mainstream media: because of the pandemic, and the hiatus in his campaign when he himself contracted the Covid-19, he made up to 'fewer meetings here than four years ago.
And even if the "showman" intends to multiply his campaign acts in the home stretch, the big chains dedicate much less time to them than in 2016, when it was not rare to see them filming the empty stage for a long time. while waiting for this new phenomenon.
The state of the finances of the candidates can therefore mainly explain the different levels of investment: Joe Biden has just completed two months of record fundraising and had 432 million in the bank at the end of September, against 251 million for Donald Trump.
In collaboration with the Republican Party, the Trump team, however, intends to increase its advertising investments by 40% in the last weeks, compared to the planned budget.
The ads remain important, recognizes Chris Jackson of the Ipsos Institute. "Not because they will change people's minds but because you still have to convince your voters to go and vote," he told AFP. All the more so in this "chaotic" year upset by the pandemic.
"If Joe Biden manages to mobilize his voters and things don't change" in the polls, "he is in a good position to win this election."