The Bloomberg 2009 campaign has become notorious for record spending. Yet, while it probably spent the most ever for a mayoral campaign on digital media – over $2 million – that number represents just a small fraction of the amount spent on television ads, direct mail, and other traditional media buys.
The campaign – resulting in Mike Bloomberg’s third New York City Mayoral win – had a digital media strategist on staff, and used a variety of innovative online tactics – even running Google search ads to promote the @mikebloomberg Twitter account. However, despite the campaign’s dedication to digital media, only around 3.5 percent of its total ad spend went to the Web, totaling just under $60 million.
The Bloomberg campaign is not alone. Other recent political campaigns – including those of President Barack Obama and last year’s New Jersey Governor race – have also spent under 5 percent on digital advertising.
Bloomberg’s 3.5 percent amounts to a significant expenditure relatively speaking, though. While the Bloomberg ’09 camp spent around $2.1 million on online advertising and related efforts to reach New York City voters in 2009, that’s around four times what Hillary Clinton’s presidential primary campaign spent online to reach voters before she ducked out of the race in June 2008, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by ClickZ News.
Spending on digital media by political campaigns may never reach that of television and direct mail. Online ads typically cost far less to produce and run, for one thing. Also, because they can be targeted more precisely, there’s less waste than with TV, radio, and newspaper advertising, which can reach people outside targeted cities, states, or voting districts.
Still, the question remains whether average digital political ad spending will surpass 5 percent any time soon. The 2010 midterm elections may serve as a testing ground for higher online ad budget allocations by some sophisticated campaigns.
Bloomberg’s online ad spending was handled by Connections Media, the Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm where Seiger serves as managing partner. In addition to the $2.1 million paid to Connections for online ads, $34 million went to television spots, $21 million to direct mail, $1.8 million to community and other newspapers, and $270,000 to robo-calls and traveling billboards, according to New York State Board of Elections data compiled by ClickZ. According to Seiger, the print buys included some online advertising impressions.
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