Online Political Ad Spending Down from ’04 National Election

Online spending by political advertisers may be up from the $29 million spent in 2004, but spending on online ad placements by political advertisers is not. Indeed, according to PQ Media, a research firm that released a report Thursday on political media spending, e-mail accounts for 80 percent of the $40 million spent online by political advertisers leading up to this year’s midterm elections. Data compiled over the last few months for ClickZ News by Nielsen/NetRatings AdRelevance also indicates that online political ad spending this year is down from 2004.

“Is there more online advertising than there was in 2002? The answer is ‘yes,’ but compared to 2004…there is much less [online] advertising because it’s missing that national component,” said Dr. Leo Kivijarv, VP head of research at PQ Media. While the ratio of e-mail spending to Web ad spending this season was around 8 to 2, added Kivijarv, it was more like 2 to 1 in 2004.

AdRelevance research gathered before the 2004 presidential election showed the Republican National Committee (RNC) alone ran over 46 million ad impressions in the last three weeks of September 2004 on sites like FoxNews.com, USAToday.com and RushLimbaugh.com. During the full month of September 2006, however, all political candidate campaigns and party organizations tracked by AdRelevance ran just over 16 million impressions. Together, the RNC, Democratic National Committee (DNC), John Kerry for President and Bush-Cheney ’04 ran over 55 million ad impressions in the last three weeks of September 2004, prime fundraising time.

As for this year, the week ending October 22 drew the highest number of political candidate and party organization advertisers leading up to the final week before the election, according to AdRelevance. Thirty-six party groups and candidates ran ads that week, from as far up the ballot as the Democratic Gubernatorial candidate from California, Phil Angelides, to as far down-ballot as Edward Scott, candidate for Fifth Circuit Court Judge in Florida.

In August, fewer than ten candidates and party organizations advertised online, according to AdRelevance, including Republican Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That number jumped to 32 in the month of September when The DNC, The National Republican Senatorial Committee, The National Republican Congressional Committee and campaigns for candidates including Democratic Senator from Nebraska Ben Nelson and Republican Congressman Greg Walden of Oregon.

AdRelevance data show 29 political candidates and party organizations ran online ads the final week of October 2006. The 4.8 million impressions they ran in total is dwarfed by the number of ad impressions run by The RNC, DNC and Bush and Kerry campaigns in ’04, tracked at nearly 42 million by the research firm.

A number of candidate campaigns ran ads throughout the last few months, including Republican candidate for New York State Senate Jeff Brown, Democratic candidate for Governor of Colorado Bill Ritter, and Republican candidate for California Lieutenant Governor Tom McClintock.

Gary Black, Republican candidate for Georgia Agriculture Commissioner, has been a mainstay on the AdRelevance list of political advertisers for months. Before the primary, his campaign ran banners on Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s ajc.com, The Augusta Chronicle, The Macon Telegraph’s macon.com and Marietta Daily Journal’s MDJonline.com, according to the campaign’s Communications Director Whitney Halterman. Following the primary, the campaign has continued running banners in metro news sections on all those sites but The Augusta Chronicle.

The online ads, which will run through the election, represent a “very, very small percentage” of the campaign’s ad budget, said Halterman. The goal of the Web ads is to “increase name identification,” she continued, adding, “We thought it was a good way to reach people who were going to vote.”

The 2006 online political ad landscape may be relatively barren compared to 2004, especially considering the number of tight races this year. However, like most insiders, PQ Media’s Dr. Kivijarv expects the nationwide election in 2008 to spur online political ads growth that year.

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