Romney, McCain, Obama Dominate Presidential Display Ads This Year

ClickZ_Campaign08_katefinal.jpgAs presidential candidates bounced around the polls in the months leading to the impending Iowa caucuses, Republicans Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain have remained securely on top according to one measure: online display advertising. Democratic Senator Barack Obama also ran a large number of Web ads compared to fellow contenders. And far more than any other singular Web site, Yahoo cashed in.

Combined, the campaigns for Romney and McCain ran over 70 percent of the online display ads purchased by the candidates this year between January and December 16, according to data from Nielsen Online AdRelevance. Obama’s campaign ran more than a quarter of all presidential campaign ads in that time, beginning this summer, while display ads for Hillary Clinton, Mike Huckabee, and others accounted for just 1 percent.

Between January and mid-December, the candidates ran more than 277 million display ad impressions. AdRelevance showed Romney for President bought the most in that time, 37 percent. McCain’s campaign came in at a close second with 34 percent. About 27 percent of all presidential candidate display ads were placed by Obama for America.

The rest merely dabbled in display. The remaining one percent represented ads for Senator Hillary Clinton and retired candidate Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo, in addition to a brief attack-ad effort placed in October on by Republican hopeful Fred Thompson.

Despite crowded races on both sides, the only other campaigns that ran display ads picked up by the AdRelevance censors were Edwards for President and Mike Huckabee for President. Both the Edwards and Huckabee camps ran ads on free Web site network Angelfire; Edwards’s campaign also bought about 170,000 ad impressions on MySpace in October.

However, despite all the hype about social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, and an array of new content offerings dedicated to the presidential race from other sites, Yahoo got the lion’s share of presidential campaign ads this year, according to AdRelevance information. Nearly 90 million ad impressions from the candidates, or 32 percent, ran across Yahoo, from its Movies and Sports sections to its highly-trafficked e-mail pages. MSN grabbed about 30 million or 11 percent of display ads run by presidential hopefuls, mainly Obama. Excite’s e-mail section and homepage garnered over 16 million or 6 percent of impressions, while AOL scored about 4 percent or 11 million.

Although all the campaigns ran the bulk of their ads on portals and well-known sites including, The New York Times, MSNBC, Newsmax and, online ad network buys helped push political ad dollars, however meager, out to long-tail sites. The three top display ad spenders, Romney, McCain and Obama, had ads show up in unlikely Web nooks and crannies. McCain ads appeared on, Southern Living Online, and HowStuffWorks, while ads for Obama ran on GoComics, Hoover’s Online, and CNET

Indeed, buying through an ad network proved risky for conservative Mitt Romney. His campaign made headlines for running thousands of ad impressions on in August. ClickZ News earlier this month reported the Romney campaign also ran about 5,000 display ads on other gay-centric sites and PlanetOut. Romney for President ads were also seen on niche sites including gaming community site Allakhazam’s Magical Realm and Top Secret Recipes.

As the campaigns refine their strategies for targeting voters in specific locales, more and more local content sites have appeared on lists of the top online display advertisers, according to AdRelevance. For instance, November’s top advertiser, Obama for America, ran ads on newspaper and TV sites in Seattle, Denver, Detroit, Orlando, Omaha, San Diego, Houston, Akron, New Orleans, and other cities. John McCain 2008 bought on sites dedicated to San Diego, Colorado Springs, Raleigh, Seattle, New York, and others. Romney for President ads showed up on sites aimed at voters in San Francisco, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Raleigh-Durham.

Obama’s campaign ran around 35 million ad impressions in November, McCain’s ran about 20 million, and Romney’s placed almost 10 million, according to AdRelevance. Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee began testing display advertising last month, buying 25,000 ad impressions on Angelfire.

Candidates Running Display Ads
between January and December 16, 2007
Candidate Campaign Number of Impressions
Romney for President 103.8 million
John McCain 2008 94.6 million
Obama for America 75.3 million
Tom Tancredo For President 1.6 million
Hillary Clinton for President 1.1 million
Friends of Fred Thompson 651,000
John Edwards for President 189,000
Huckabee for President 25,000
Source: Nielsen Online, AdRelevance, 2007

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