Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Political Web Ad Spending Could Hit $110 Million in 2008

By Kate Kaye The ClickZ Network,
A Lehman Brothers report on 2008 online political ad revenue published last week is bullish, especially when compared to another recent forecast. The analyst firm predicts political advertisers could spend over $110 million on Web ads this year, with less than half that amount coming from presidential election-related advertising. Indeed, Lehman Brothers Analyst Douglas Anmuth believes the portion of ad spending online by political campaigns, pegged at 3.6 percent, will double by the midterm elections in 2010, and could hit double digits by 2012.

The "Anmuth's Internet Inside Weekly" report states $42.5 million or 5 percent of all presidential campaign spending in 2008 will flow online. The remaining forecast $67.1 million in online political ad spending will come from other political advertisers, including congressional and public policy related campaigns. Mirroring other prognostications, the firm anticipates an incremental rise in online campaign ad expenditures moving forward.

Lehman Brothers also expects US online advertising to grow 24 percent to $26.2 billion in 2008, pointing particularly to presidential election and summer Olympics-related ad spending as key drivers.

The report suggests presidential campaigns will spend more of their ad budgets on the Web compared with statewide campaigns because they are national in scope. However, it's important to note the ability to target ads geographically down to the zip code level has been a draw to presidential candidate campaigns during the primary season. Geo-targeting will most likely continue to be an attractive option to these advertisers once party nominees emerge, since the campaigns typically target ads heavily in important swing states or other tight-race regions.

Overall, total political ad spending on all media in '08 is set to reach over $3 billion, with $850 million coming from the presidential campaigns, according to the report. Spending by US Senate campaigns across media will rise almost 8 percent from $302 million to $325 million, while US House spending will go up nearly 19 percent from $337 million to $400 million. Public policy and other state efforts will also drive political ad revenues this year. Ad spending by such groups, however, isn't always associated with a candidate campaign.

Lehman's estimate that 3.6 percent of political ad dollars will move online this year is higher than the 1.6 percent estimate published in a December PQ Media report. That forecast encompasses political ad spending on all media in 2007 leading up to the presidential primaries, as well as '08 revenues, totaling an estimated $4.5 billion across all media. Despite casting a larger net, PQ predicts just $73 million is expected to go towards the Web, compared with Lehman's $110 million forecast.

According to PQ, about 80 percent of all money spent by political advertisers on the Web will go towards e-mail marketing efforts, a primary method for online fundraising pitches and communicating with grassroots supporters. The Lehman report, which represents all forms of online advertising, notes, "our estimates are directly associated with the advertising budgets of each candidate." Anmuth added he thinks less Web spending is going towards e-mail than is estimated by PQ.

The Lehman report notes about 80 percent of the projected $3 billion in political ad spending will go towards TV, with the rest going to radio, print and the Web.

"We believe the major publishers such as Yahoo! and others are likely to benefit not just from campaign advertising, but also from increased traffic and engagement across their News and Elections coverage," predicts Lehman.

As reported by ClickZ News last month, Yahoo served up the lion's share of presidential campaign ad impressions in 2007, according to Nielsen Online AdRelevance information. Nearly 90 million ad impressions from the candidates, or 32 percent, ran across Yahoo, and MSN grabbed about 30 million or 11 percent of display ads run by presidential hopefuls. Excite and AOL also scored a chunk of ad dollars from the presidential campaigns.

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