Obama and Democrats Spent $21 Million on Web Ads So Far

  |  May 7, 2012   |  Comments

Original ClickZ analysis: GOP spent less than half on digital ads through March.

obama-michiganThe Obama for America campaign spent twice as much on online advertising since 2011 as all the GOP presidential primary campaigns and the Republican National Committee combined. The disparity is especially significant because it suggests President Barack Obama's campaign team has dropped millions online to book ad space that will be used months from now in the hopes of preventing Mitt Romney and his Republican backers from getting the ad space - which could be limited in important battleground states targeting key voter groups.

Since launching their campaigns in 2011, the RNC and all Republican presidential candidates - including early dropouts like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Tim Pawlenty - spent around $8.9 million on digital ad buys through March 2012. The numbers reported in this story are based on ClickZ's own tracking and analysis of Federal Election Commission reports filed by the campaigns since last year.

See the infographic visualizing data presented in this story here.

During the same time, Obama and the Democratic National Committee together spent a combined $21 million on web ads and text messaging - more than double the GOP spend. The Obama camp spent the bulk of that, just under $19 million, through March.

Much of the Obama ad money most likely went to search advertising, along with Facebook ads and display ads targeted across the web to garner supporter signups and donations. However, around the time of the early GOP primary elections, the President's reelection team started to switch gears, incorporating persuasion messaging in its online campaign.

Now, in addition to merely asking people to "join" the campaign or help by donating money, Obama for America (OFA) has been presenting messages aimed at convincing voters that the economy and job growth are improving - and more recently contrasting Obama with likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

In other words, while Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and the rest of the GOP flock were embroiled in primary infighting, the Obama camp took advantage by building up a fresh database of volunteers and donors. Some of the ads running online this year have gone a step further by incorporating issue-oriented messaging intended to reenergize the Democratic base and attract independents.

OFA reportedly is running TV ads in battleground states, including Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennysylvania, and Ohio. It is likely that Obama's online ad buying firm, Bully Pulpit Interactive, has purchased pre-roll video placements for the same television spots targeted to voters watching online video in the same states.

romney-orlandosentinel-prefl2The Romney camp has been doing much the same throughout the primary season, running pre-roll and in-banner video ads targeted to specific voter groups in key states and districts. But Romney has spent far less on digital ads than the president's campaign so far. Through March 2012, his campaign spent around $5.2 million on online ads, according to ClickZ analysis.

Most of Romney's online ad buys are handled by Targeted Victory, a firm that has partnered with data companies to enhance its ability to reach important voting blocs online, including Hispanic data firm Pulpo Media.

According to original ClickZ analysis of FEC filings, the only other Republican candidates who spent more than $1 million on web ads were Santorum ($1.6 million through March 2012) and Gingrich ($1.2 million). Some Santorum and Gingrich reports of online ad expenditures combine online ad buys with email and online fundraising spending.

2012 Election Presidential
Online Ad Spending
Candidate/PartyFrom 2011 Through March 2012
Barack Obama $18,978,141
Mitt Romney $5,171,750
Democratic National Committee $2,018,520
Rick Santorum $1,632,067
Newt Gingrich $1,231,085
Michele Bachmann $431,807
Rick Perry $169,407
Herman Cain $102,479
Republican National Committee $87,281
Tim Pawlenty $75,773
Buddy Roemer $26,403
Jon Huntsman $6,603
Ron Paul $3,445

*All data estimated by ClickZ Politics based on FEC filings.


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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