Together President Barack Obama's campaign and the Democratic National Committee have spent close to $5 million on online advertising this year. During this summer alone - typically a slower campaign period - Obama for America spent around $2 million on web ads, while the DNC spent more than $1.5 million.
Both the DNC and OFA use Bully Pulpit Interactive - a firm led by three members of the Obama 2008 online ad team - to handle their online advertising. According to Federal Election Commission reports analyzed by ClickZ Politics, Bully Pulpit has received $2.9 million from OFA this year, and $1.9 million from the DNC.
The Q3 online ad spending represents a spike compared to the previous quarter, when the President launched his reelection campaign. By July, reports showed OFA and the DNC spent a combined $1.04 million with Bully Pulpit.
Although July and August tend to be slower campaign months, the Obama camp and the Democrats are intent on re-engaging 2008 supporters and building a fresh batch of supporters and volunteers. The bulk of the online ads from OFA, many of which tell voters to "join us," are geared towards collecting email addresses and other supporter contact information. The Obama campaign is more focused on data than ever this time around, and gathering information on voters early in the election cycle through search and display advertising is part of the strategy.
First Lady Michelle Obama appeared in ads from the OFA 2012 campaign in September. Those ads suggested, "You should join Barack and Michelle Obama." Many of the ads were re-targeted through ad networks to people who had visited the BarackObama.com website, and were aimed at garnering signups.
Obama and the Democrats must organize a massive grassroots volunteer effort akin to the President’s 2008 campaign in order to win in 2012. In addition to volunteer organizing, those signups will be used throughout the 2012 cycle to solicit donations via email requests.
The DNC in September used an important issue of the day - Barack Obama's jobs plan - to drive signups through online ads. Expandable ads spotted on LATimes.com led to a website supporting the President's job-creation plan, and the related AmericanJobsAct.com site. The ads included a video featuring an edited version of a speech he gave before Congress about the proposal. They also listed several bullet points that Democrats claimed would result from the plan including "$1,500 more in your paycheck," "creating jobs fixing roads and bridges," and "keeping good teachers in classrooms."
The Obama camp has also used issues important to niche voting groups to drive signups through targeted Facebook ads. Some Obama ads targeting people who like left-leaning and liberal groups on Facebook, including gay rights related groups, told users of the social site to "Repeal the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act. Join President Obama now!"
The Obama campaign spent less than $1 million on Facebook ads in the 2008 election, but the site promises to be a recipient of much more online ad cash from political advertisers in 2012.
Unfortunately, it is not clear where the two groups are spending their online ad dollars, although in '08 OFA spent the largest portion of its online ad budget with Google, buying search and display ads. This time around, Google will also generate more political ad dollars through its YouTube property, where more and more political campaigns are buying in-stream video ads and other forms of advertising.
OFA has also sent supporters text messages, spending around $50,000 with mobile messaging service Mobile Commons from July through September. Meanwhile, the Obama camp spent around $358,000 with Blue State Digital for technology consulting and website related work in that time.
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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.
March 19, 2014