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Obama Spent Most of $3 Million This Year on Google

  |  May 29, 2008   |  Comments

UPDATE: The biggest recipient of the Democratic Presidential hopeful's online ad dollars from January through April was Google.

Please note some numbers originally reported in this story have been altered.

ClickZ_Campaign08_katefinal.jpgBarack Obama's campaign spent nearly $3 million on online advertising related purchases between January and April. The biggest recipient of the Democratic Presidential hopeful's online ad dollars was Google.

The search giant scored over 70 percent of money spent on online media buys for the Illinois Senator's campaign this year through April, according to information compiled from Federal Election Commission filings. More than $2.08 million was paid to Google, as listed by Obama for America in its itemized FEC reports.

After spending about $640,000 in January on online advertising, the campaign pumped its online ad budget up to $1.18 million in February. Expenditures tapered to about $905,000 the following month. Filings show spending of only around $234,000 in April. However, previous monthly reports suggest more April online ad payments will be reported in the future; Google didn't even appear in April spending data supplied by the campaign.

Some estimate as much as $3 billion could be spent by political campaigns leading up to the November election, so a few million seems miniscule. However, the FEC reports offer a glimpse into how the presidential campaign with the most cash is allocating its online spending.

Like countless commercial advertisers, the Obama camp has gravitated towards performance-based ad buys, and not only on Google. The other top recipients of his campaign's online ad dollars specialize in cost-per-action ads as well. In addition to Yahoo search ads, payments to performance ad networks including Specific Media, Pulse360, Microsoft-owned DrivePM and AOL-owned Quigo also showed up in FEC filings reflecting spending between January and April.

While it appears the bulk of Obama's online ad budget was spent on Google and other performance-based media, a small portion did flow towards direct buys on Web sites including Politico ($36,000), CNN.com ($24,000), and Gothamist ($2,800). Those most likely involved CPM-based display ads.

Microsoft also was listed as a recipient of online ad payments, though it is unclear whether those listings refer to MSN's display ads, sponsored search results, or both. The company received about $83,000 for online advertising between January and April according to FEC filings. Online video ad network Broadband Enterprises also garnered $80,000 from Obama's campaign in March. Missing from the reports are the names of other prominent ad networks like AOL's Advertising.com and Valueclick.

And while the news and political sites and blogs hoping to gain from election year spending are barely represented in Obama's reports, many obtained money indirectly through those Google and other ad network buys.

While Yahoo has served an abundance of online display ads during the primary season, the FEC reports indicate the company saw just a sliver of Obama's ad dollars so far this year. Compared to Google's millions, it appears about $180,000 was spent on Yahoo search ads; meanwhile payment notes indicate approximately $172,000 went towards display ads seen on Yahoo's site.

Indeed, it is not clear how much spending on Yahoo and Google went towards sponsored search ads as opposed to display ads, though there are indications. There seems to be an enormous disparity in money spent on Google AdWords sponsored links versus display ads in its content network. Itemized payments show only about $18,000 was paid to "Google Image Domain" -- possibly meaning Google's AdSense display network. In comparison, about $2.06 million was paid to "Google Inc," possibly for ads seen on Google's own site. Neither the Obama campaign, nor Yahoo and Google responded to ClickZ's inquiries regarding Obama's FEC reports.

Among social networking sites, Facebook appears to be the winner, scoring about $47,000 in online ad dollars from the Obama camp. Some of those line items were payments of less than $100, indicating some Facebook purchases may have been made by state or local branches of the campaign. MySpace collected about $11,500 from Obama for America through April, while Community Connect, publisher of ethnic and lifestyle-oriented social networks, took in about $5,000.

Online local media outlets were also beneficiaries of Obama's still active primary battle for the Democratic nomination. The campaign paid about $250,000 to local online media buying firm Centro through April, though some of that money most likely went towards creative services. The company designed and placed expandable video-enabled banners aimed at Texas and Ohio primary voters in late February.

Estimated Online Ad Expenditures by Obama for America -- January 2008
Media Firm Amount Paid
All $640,000
Google $507,000
Yahoo $77,000
Right Media $23,500
Microsoft $22,000
Pulse360 $4,000
Quigo $2,500
Source: FEC data compiled by ClickZ News

Estimated Online Ad Expenditures by Obama for America -- February 2008
Media Firm Amount Paid
All $1.18 million
Google $890,000
Yahoo $173,000
Pulse360 $32,500
Quigo $22,500
Microsoft $15,000
Facebook $9,000
Source: FEC data compiled by ClickZ News

Estimated Online Ad Expenditures by Obama for America -- March 2008
Media Firm Amount Paid
All $905,000
Google $687,000
Broadband Enterprises $80,000
Yahoo $50,000
Microsoft $40,000
Facebook $17,000
Source: FEC data compiled by ClickZ News

"All" media monthly totals are approximations and include additional smaller expenditures not shown in charts.

Other Related ClickZ Campaign '08 Stories:
Obama's Web Ads May Have Helped Big North Carolina Win
Web Ads from Left and Right Advocacy Groups Signal More to Come
Obama and Clinton Led Display Ad Drop in March

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect corrections to some originally reported numbers. Mainly, the total spent by Obama for American between January and April 2008 was changed from $3.47 million to nearly $3 million. Other updates: Google's portion of total spending was changed from $2.8 million or 82 percent to $2.08 million or 70 percent; total payment made to Google, Inc. was changed from $2.8 million to $2.06 million; Obama's February online ad expenditures were changed from over $1.9 million to $1.18 million; March spending changed from $888,000 to $905,000; spending on Microsoft was altered from $73,000 to $83,000; total paid in March to Google was changed from $679,000 to $687,000; total paid in March to Yahoo incorrectly shown in the chart as $100,500 was changed to $50,000.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

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