As pundits and consultants play Monday morning quarterback to analyze what went wrong with Hillary Clinton's campaign, her online ad spending numbers may shed some light. Through the entire 2007/2008 campaign, Hillary Clinton for President spent far less on online advertising than Barack Obama's campaign has this year alone. Still, despite the disparity, they did have something in common: both spent the bulk of their online ad budgets on Google.
About 57 percent of the $508,400 the New York Senator's campaign put towards online ad-related expenses in 2007 and 2008 went to the search ad titan. According to Federal Election Commission filings compiled by ClickZ News, the Clinton camp doled out around $292,000 to Google between March 2007 and April 2008, most of which was spent this year.
|Estimated Online Ad Expenditures by Hillary Clinton for President -- 2007/2008|
|Media Firm||Amount Paid||Percentage of Total|
|E-mail (various cos.)||$152,740||30%|
|Source: FEC data compiled by ClickZ News|
E-mail represented the next largest portion of online marketing related expenses for the campaign, accounting for 30 percent, or $152,740. The remainder went to Yahoo, the Blogads network, and Microsoft. Yahoo saw 7 percent, Blogads ad network operator Pressflex took 5 percent, and Microsoft around 1 percent.
Meanwhile, Obama's campaign has spent thousands of its online ad dollars through ad networks and social networking sites, but Clinton's FEC filings did not name any such recipients.
If political races are won by the biggest ad spenders, the contrast between Senator Obama's online ad spending and that of Clinton's could have people wondering whether more of her ad budget should have been spent online. Comparing Clinton's Google total of $292,200 in '07 and '08 to Obama's $2.08 million just this year indicates a major difference in overall ad strategy.
ClickZ's calculations of Obama's payouts show similar chasms in spending by the campaigns on other sites. Yahoo garnered around $350,000 from the Democratic presidential nominee's campaign, compared to the $33,580 Clinton put toward Yahoo. The difference was also apparent when comparing Microsoft expenditures by the two campaigns; Obama's spent about $83,000 while Clinton's spent $6,610.
Obama's coffers have allowed the candidate to spend a lot more on advertising in general throughout the campaign than Clinton's did. However, using their television spending as a benchmark provides a glimpse into each campaign's media strategies. Recent reports of TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group data show Obama's campaign spent $75 million on television ads so far, compared to Clinton's $46 million. Obama allocated about 4 percent of the $75 million he spent on TV to digital ad related purchases in 2008, but during her entire campaign, Clinton put just over 1 percent of the amount she spent on television towards the Web.
Some online ad proponents believe online advertising -- particularly ads that get users to provide their contact information to sign up for e-mail updates, volunteer or donate -- have helped reap cash for political candidates.
In a discussion last week, Google manager for elections and issue advocacy Peter Greenberger suggested both Obama's and Republican presidential nominee John McCain's campaigns have used search ads to build up their supporter lists, enabling them to reach out to them for donations in a calculated manner.
"The ability to build up that list of names was important earlier on in the process.... You don't want to burn through that list," he told ClickZ News. While "The Obama campaign and the McCain campaign both understood this," he said, "The Clinton campaign was in the position of having to go back to donors very soon after they signed up."
Eric Frenchman, chief Internet strategist at political consulting agency Connell Donatelli, agrees with the notion that savvy search efforts contributed to the success of both Barack Obama's and John McCain's primary season wins by helping them build lists of potential donors. Frenchman handles much of the McCain camp's online advertising. Commenting on his Pardon My French blog last week, he wrote, "We get $3 - $4 in donations for every $1 we spend online."
It is important to note FEC reports studied by ClickZ are not standardized. For instance, Clinton's campaign listed payments to Storefront Political Media, Mayfield Strategy Group, and Advocacy Inc. as "Email Expenses." However, although it is clear his campaign has been sending quite a bit of e-mail to supporters, Obama's reports have not indicated e-mail related expenditures. Also, Clinton's campaign ran display ads purchased direct from AOL, CNN.com, Newsweek, NYTimes.com, Slate, and WashingtonPost.com in March, but her reports don't indicate that. Instead, many payments made to consulting and media buying firms that handle all sorts of media most likely accounted for those purchases.
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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.