You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

The Rationality Gap: Campaigns Way Behind the Online Advertising Curve

BY Alan Rosenblatt | Tuesday, February 5 2008

The big news in this campaign cycle is that online ads by the campaigns are expected to hit $20 million. Woo hoo. That is a lot of money, isn't it? Well, actually, it is not.

The campaigns are expected to spend $4.8 billion on advertising this year. That puts online ad spending at 0.41% of total campaign ad spending. And compared to the 9% of ad budgets spent online by the commercial sector in the US, it is far below the average, let alone below the optimum.

And compared to media consumption patterns, the dearth of online ads makes no sense, whatsoever. According to the Pew Center for the People and the Press, 24% of Americans look online for information about the presidential candidates. And this chunk is even larger for younger voters, measuring at 47% in 2007, up from 21% the year before.

According to the Digital Futures Project at USC's Annenberg School, "the Internet is perceived by users to be a more important source of information for them -- this over all other principal media, including television, radio, newspapers, and books." And an IBM consumer survey shows clearly that in terms of time spent consuming media, the internet rivals television.

So if the internet has become such a dominant attention grabber of the audience's scarce media consumption time, why are the campaigns spending such a paltry amount on online advertising? Why aren't they spending 10% of that $4.8 billion online? Or more, for that matter. Why aren't they buying more targeted search ads? Or more persuasion ads on the major news media websites or social network/media sites? For 10% of their ad budgets they could dominate the web.

It boggles my mind.