Obama Outspent Romney On Web Ads 2 to 1

  |  February 14, 2012   |  Comments

Romney spent far more online in 2011 than his GOP opponents.

In 2011 online ad spending, the Democrats and Obama's reelection campaign outspent Republicans 2 to 1. And, despite being embroiled in a tough primary battle for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney's campaign spent just half the amount incumbent President Barack Obama did on online ads last year.

The 2008 Obama campaign was widely recognized for its digital media prowess and big online ad spending, and the 2012 race is shaping up much the same way.

romney-nh-unionleader2Romney continued to stand out among his GOP opponents, however, dropping $1.3 million more on online ads than the rest of the Republican presidential field and the Republican National Committee combined. Indeed, if Romney wins the nomination, 2012 is poised to be a banner year for online presidential campaign ad budgets.

In 2011, Romney spent $2.45 million on online advertising through Targeted Victory, the digital consulting firm working with his campaign. More than $1.5 million of that total was spent in the last quarter, between October and December, as the primaries heated up. Spending data in this report is based on original analysis of Federal Election Commission reports by ClickZ Politics.

Compare Romney's $2.45 million with the over $5 million spent by Obama for America in 2011. As Republicans sparred on television with ads hitting voters in early primary and caucus states, OFA was able to stay above the fray, focusing its 2011 advertising mainly on building its supporter list and generating donations. Obama display ads asked people to join the campaign, visit the official website, or sign a digital card wishing the Obama family luck in 2012. The Obama camp did very little TV advertising last year.

The Democratic Party outgunned the Republicans online, too. In 2011, the Democratic National Committee spent nearly $2 million on online advertising, compared to the Republican National Committee's puny $20,000 web ad spend. RNC buys went through Connell Donatell, Emotive, and Campaign Grid, and some purchases were made direct through Google. To be fair, the RNC doesn't know who its nominee is yet. Also, it is unclear how much of the DNC's online ad buys were in support of the President's reelection.

One reason why the Romney camp spent less than OFA on web ads: persuasion. Although online advertising - especially video advertising - has been used by Romney and others to sway voters, his campaign was more focused on TV ads and other forms of advertising traditionally used to persuade voters, because he's been immersed in the primaries. Since January, the Obama camp has shifted its digital media strategy towards persuasion messaging.

Michele Bachmann is out of the presidential race but her campaign came in second place on the 2011 GOP spending chart with around $432,000 going towards digital ads, placed through affiliated agencies Connell Donatelli and Campaign Solutions.

ricksantorum12Newt Gingrich was next, running around $343,500 worth of online ads; some of that total was spent directly on Google and Facebook while other web ad expenditures went through Campaign Fundraising Experts. Most GOP hopefuls have been running digital ads since spring, but the Gingrich camp only just started doing so in October, according to FEC reports.

Herman Cain is also out of the race, but his campaign spent more on web ads last year than each of the other remaining Republican candidates, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. Cain paid more than $102,000 for ads on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. That included a large expenditure with Active Engagement - around $94,000 – for web ads and "list acquisition."

Santorum spent around $88,000 on online ads placed through Raise Digital and Emotive, while Ron Paul spent just around $2,000 on Facebook and Google ads. Paul's campaign has been backed by Endorse Liberty, a PAC that has spent millions on online ads supporting the Texas Congressman. Still, considering Paul's already large grassroots base, his campaign could have spent more on online ads to help harness those supporters as volunteers and generate more donations from them.

Tim Pawlenty, the first main contender to drop out of the GOP primary race in August, spent more than $75,000 with Engage, a Republican digital shop. Presumably much of that spending went towards online ads. Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman, also former candidates, each spent less than $25,000 on web ads, along with Buddy Roemer, who is still in the race.

2011 GOP Presidential
Online Ad Spending
CandidateAmount Spent on
Online Ads
Mitt Romney $ 2,455,803
Michele Bachmann $431,807
Newt Gingrich $343,536
Herman Cain $102,479
Rick Santorum $88,132
Tim Pawlenty $75,773
Buddy Roemer $23,653
RNC $20,267
Rick Perry $12,500
Ron Paul $2,272
Jon Huntsman $1,404
Total GOP $3,557,625


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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