RealTime IT News

Obama up in Web Spend; McCain Surges in Video

A new analysis of the two presidential candidates' online advertising campaigns has found that Barack Obama has taken a far more aggressive approach to promoting himself on the Web than opponent John McCain.

Despite that tally, however, video views on McCain's site have outpaced video views on Obama's site, according comScore.

The online metrics firm (NASDAQ: SCOR) examined the two candidates' Internet campaigns through the first six months of the year, and found that Obama held a wide lead over McCain in search queries, display ads and visits to the candidates' Web sites. The researchers found that McCain beat out his opponent in video, however, with visitors watching more than three times as many video views on his Web site than Obama's.

Looking at display ads, comScore found that Obama averaged 92 million impressions per month compared to McCain's 7 million, and also noted that the creatives appeared to be geared for different purposes.

"Not only have the two campaigns placed a different level of emphasis on the importance of using online advertising as part of the media mix, but their execution also shows stark differences," comScore senior analyst Andrew Lipsman said in a statement. "While Obama's ads tend to be 'brand-building' ads encouraging people to join the movement, McCain's ads are often issue-oriented."

comScore also noted that the Obama campaign has been ramping up its display advertising in recent months, logging 150 million impressions in May and 244 million in June.

It's a different story with search ads. comScore found queries across the five major search engines that included the name "Obama" averaged 5.4 million per month, compared to 1.3 million that included "McCain."

Despite the traffic deficit, the McCain campaign has generated more ad impressions through search: comScore counted 4.8 million paid search impressions for JohnMcCain.com in June, compared to 2.6 million for Obama. Those figures contrast with a recent analysis from Nielsen, which reported a nearly 7 to 1 edge for McCain in paid impressions.

Though they differ on the precise figures, both studies point to a familiar pattern of McCain bidding more aggressively on keywords than his rivals. Throughout the primary, links to the McCain campaign showed up on an array of search terms, such as "Republican candidate," "immigration reform" and even "Rudy Giuliani." And when Obama announced Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate, McCain bid aggressively on that term, too.

By focusing his efforts on search, McCain is more likely to reach undecided voters who are using the Web to research issues, said Janel Landis, senior director of search development strategy at SendTec, an online marketing consultancy.

"McCain's doing the supporter-acquisition mode, and Obama's in retention mode," Landis told InternetNews.com. "Not only is McCain doing a better job in search, he's communicating to the people who want to be communicated to."

She added, "Obama has tons of traffic, but a lot of it’s the same traffic over and over."

Indeed, in terms of overall traffic to the two candidates' sites, the difference that comScore reported is striking: Obama had a nearly four-fold edge in site traffic over McCain in the first half of the year, averaging 2.2 million monthly visitors compared to McCain's 533,000.

Those figures mesh with a recent analysis from Hitwise, another tracking firm, which also noted that traffic to McCain's site has recently been climbing at a much steeper rate than Obama's.

Despite Obama's considerable lead in total traffic, comScore tallied 2.1 million video views on McCain's site in the first half of the year, compared to 612,000 on Obama's site.

"By featuring video content prominently on the front page of JohnMcCain.com, the campaign has been able to effectively leverage the Web to reach a larger audience with its video campaign messages," Lipsman said.

But outside of the candidates' home pages, the Web tells a much different story about video. Google's YouTube, which accounts for more than one third of all videos viewed online, maintains a Politicians channel, featuring videos from the candidates' sites. YouTube's traffic counter shows 53 million views of Obama campaign videos, compared to 10 million of McCain's. In between is Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who competed in the Republican primary, with 15 million views.

Since those videos are hosted at YouTube.com, they do not figure into comScore's figures.