Barack Obama Was the King of Online Advertising in 2008

Election campaigns on the internet - IllustrationThe Federal Election Commission ( has all sorts of interesting data posted on their site.

For instance, you can visit their "Presidential Campaign Finance" page to see exactly how Barack Obama and John McCain spent their funds during the 2008 Presidential election.

In the 2008 Presidential election, Barack Obama had total operating expenditures of $706,668,994. John McCain, on the other hand, had total operating expenditures of $285,683,216.

One of the interesting differences between the Obama and McCain campaigns was their spending on Internet advertising.

In short, the Obama campaign spent heavily, while the McCain campaign chose to direct their advertising dollars towards more traditional types of media (television, etc).

The disparity between the two campaigns in terms of online spending was quite stunning. The Obama team embraced social media and spent ad dollars liberally on sites such as Facebook and MySpace, while the McCain team largely avoided these popular web sites.

The Obama campaign also spent heavy dollars on Google, Yahoo! and other search engines, while the McCain campaign chose to focus the majority of their dollars elsewhere.

Was this a mistake for the McCain campaign? In an increasingly wired world, it would definitely seem that way. Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike all use the Internet, and not trying hard to reach voters via the Internet seems like a big mistake, especially given the fact that you can target certain demographics with pinpoint precision in this day and age.


In Barack Obama's 2008 campaign for President, his team spent $28,583,152 on "Online Advertising".

Let's take a quick look at some of the places where Obama and his team spent their dollars:

Facebook: $1,129,022
Google: $11,785,308
Yahoo: $2,095,000
Ask Jeeves: $134,037
MySpace: $262,362
Adbrite: $412
Microsoft: $1,089,475

Obama's team also had online campaigns on sites such as,, etc.

Now what about McCain's campaign? Let's compare with the same companies listed above:

Facebook: $0
Google: $55
Yahoo: -$0.20
Ask Jeeves: $0
MySpace: $0
Adbrite: $0
Microsoft: $45,476


But Dave, you might be saying to yourself, the McCain campaign surely farmed these online buys out to consultants and other technology companies.

CD Inc. (or Connell Donatelli, Inc.) is an "elite advertising team" that specializes in search, rich media and banner advertising. They handled John McCain's online advertising campaigns in 2008.

McCain's campaign didn't list companies such as Google and Facebook in their expenditure report to the FEC, which means that a company like CD Inc. would have been billed.

CD Inc. billed the McCain campaign approximately $5.8 million during the entirety of the 2008 Presidential election campaign. Ok, this is better, but still far behind the $30 million that Obama spent on online advertising purchases, and Obama's number doesn't even include the consultants and companies that he had advising him on his online buys.


On April 4th, Barack Obama's 2012 campaign for President formally kicked off on makes heavy use of social media sites such as and Tools such as these help Obama and his team get his message out quickly. As of this moment, nearly 20 million people "like" Barack Obama on Facebook.

Given how interconnected is with sites such as Facebook and Twitter, it would only make sense to assume that the Obama campaign will be spending heavily on Internet advertising in the months leading up to the 2012 election. I wouldn't be surprised if they end up doubling their 2008 spend when it comes to online ad dollars.

The question is - will the Republican nominee be able to get their message out to people online in the same way that Barack Obama surely will? If the answer to this question is no, then how much will this end up hurting the Republican nominee in 2012?


Filed under: General Knowledge

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