Online Political Spending to Hit $73 Million in ’08 Cycle

ClickZ_Campaign08_katefinal.jpgSpending by political advertisers on Internet ads, marketing and promotional efforts is poised this election cycle to be 150 percent higher than the last presidential election cycle. However, although a new PQ Media report shows it could hit $73 million by next November, Web revenues from political advertisers are still a drop in the bucket.

The preliminary Political Media Buying 2008 forecast from PQ estimates $4.5 billion will be spent by political advertisers in ’08 and leading up to this year’s presidential primaries on all media measured, including broadcast and cable TV, direct mail, PR, newspaper and Internet. The estimated $73 million sliver expected to go towards the Web represents a measly 1.6 percent of the whole.

Growth is steady, though. In the 2004 presidential election cycle, political advertisers spent $29 million on the Web, and during the ’06 congressional elections, they put $40 million online. While the numbers are relatively small compared to broadcast TV and direct mail, the anticipated 150 percent leap between the ’04 and ’08 presidential elections — when typically far more money is spent compared to non-presidential election cycles — is a clear sign that the Internet is gaining momentum when it comes to political spending.

Online media spending doesn’t mean just display or search advertising. As reported by PQ in 2006, the majority of dollars spent by political advertisers on the Web will go towards e-mail marketing efforts, the method of choice for online fundraising pitches.

“Spending is probably about a three-to-one, with more of it going towards the e-mail marketing and fundraising aspect of it,” said Dr. Leo Kivijarv, VP head of research at PQ Media. Leading up to the 2006 election, PQ pegged e-mail spending at 80 percent of all online political dollars.

Mobile media expenditures by political campaigns are increasing, according to Kivijarv, but the numbers are still tiny in the scheme of things. PQ combined mobile and print magazine spending in a catchall category estimated at around $3 million this election cycle. “Mobile is slowly becoming a larger portion of that [“other” category],” he said, noting, “It’s still difficult to ascertain how much candidates are really spending on mobile.”

Even though Internet spending is set to account for only 1.6 percent of all political media expenditures, online represented 1.1 percent in the ’04 presidential cycle, according to Kivijarv.

“There’s definitely momentum,” said Kivijarv. “Where the problem exists is when you compare it to the other media,” he continued. Broadcast television is set to collect $2.3 billion from political advertisers by the ’08 election, and direct mail comes as a distant second with around $1 billion. PR, promotions and events will garner $395 million, according to PQ, while cable TV is expected to grab $200 million.

Kivijarv chalks up miniscule online spending to the fact that political advertisers still consider the Web to be a national medium.

Local media publishers and ad networks enabling geo-targeting down to the zip code may balk at such a notion. And a glance at data provided to ClickZ News by Nielsen Online AdRelevance indicates Republican campaigns for Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain have made a point of buying display advertising on local media sites in important early caucus and primary states including Iowa and South Carolina, along with several other states.

Since April, Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls ran more than 172 million display ad impressions online between April and October, according to AdRelevance data.

The fact that political advertisers often need to target advertising on a neighborhood or precinct level, narrower parameters than zipcodes, means they tend to rely on media like direct mail, at least when it comes to getting out the vote in tight-race regions. “They just don’t have the demographic measurements or the ROI measurements [on such a refined basis],” said Kivijarv.

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