The Barack Obama and Mitt Romney camps may be emptying their war chests this month to go head-to-head in TV spots in swing states, but the online battle is a more lopsided affair.
According to research by the analytics company Moat, the Obama campaign had a 93.3% share of voice in terms of display-impression volume in September across the top 20,000 publishers, compared with the Romney campaign's 6.7%. And for the period between Sept. 1 and Oct. 14, the Obama camp had 497 creatives deployed across the web compared with the Romney camp's 90.
While both campaigns are making use of ad networks and audience buying, the Obama campaign's ads were sighted with many more tags from ad-tech companies (194 compared with Romney's 116 for the weeks between Sept. 1 and Oct. 3). Moat's report also makes note of the fact that 30% of the Obama ads have a Yahoo Genome tag, which "suggests use of audience and data targeting."
The top five domains where President Obama's ads were spotted in that period were NYTimes.com, RR.com, Oprah.com, Reference.com and Yahoo.com. Mr. Romney's top five were AOL.com, RR.com, Chow.com, GameSpot.com and Maxpreps.com.
Since October is the time for campaigns to floor the gas on spending, the digital-ad ecosystem is reporting a windfall. Ad network Collective said political spending is up seven-fold from the first week of September to the first week of October, while AOL said it's seen a 30% to 40% lift in the same period across its properties and the Advertising.com network.
The scale and sophistication of the Obama campaign's digital ad operation should come as no surprise given its well-documented track record of organizing and fundraising online. It's continued to press its perceived advantage in technology, opening a secretive "tech field office" in San Francisco last winter that 's staffed largely by volunteers who work around their day jobs.
The Obama campaign didn't respond to a request for comment on its digital spending and strategy for the weeks leading up to Election Day. Mr. Romney's digital director, Zac Moffatt, acknowledged that his side is being outspent on digital, but said that he's trying to win by purchasing efficiently and working with third-party vendors to identify key buckets of voters in swing state.
He also pointed to what he deems inefficient digital buying patterns by the Obama campaign. "If [they] have money to burn ... good for them," he said. "It's a spray-and-pray model."