Presidential campaign ads set record

The Obama camp spent the most in topping 1 million advertisements aired, but Romney's supporters did their part, too.

By Bruce Kennedy Nov 5, 2012 3:44PM

CorbisA new study confirms what most of us felt during this year's presidential campaign: that far, far more campaign ads aired this year than in previous elections.

According to the Wesleyan Media Project, the two major candidates, along with their respective party organizations and supporting interest groups, sponsored 1,015,615 presidential ad airings on local broadcast and national cable between June 1 and Oct. 29. That's an increase of more than 39% over the 2008 election and a 41% rise compared with 2004's.

"This is, by far, the most advertising we've seen in a presidential election," says project co-director Erika Franklin Fowler. "Everyone expected ads to be more abundant this election than in 2008, especially with super PAC involvement and both candidates opting out of public funding, but passing the 1 million mark is a real milestone."

And as anyone watching television during the past month can tell you, about one-third of those 1 million-plus campaign ads were aired in October.

President Barack Obama led the tally in the total number of ads aired this election season, with more than 503,000 in 63 media markets at a cost of nearly $266 million. That's about half of all the total ads aired. It also leads the Romney campaign by a 2.6-1 margin in both estimated costs and ads aired.

Romney's supporters helped him bring up his ad numbers, too. More than 60,000 pro-Romney ads were aired in 64 markets by the super PAC Restore Our Future, for an estimated $57.6 million. There were also more than 180,000 ads aired by American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, at a collective cost of more than $138 million.

Thanks to that support from outside groups, Romney "out-advertised the candidate and party committees," notes project co-director Michael Franz. "That is unprecedented in a presidential election."

Not surprisingly, the TV markets most saturated by the ads were in key election battleground states. According to the report, Denver led the nation in the most campaign advertising from Oct. 22 to 29, with nearly 4,700 ads aired for both presidential candidates. Las Vegas was No. 2 on the list, with more than 4,400, followed by Orlando, Fla., Cleveland and Tampa, Fla.

And these ads haven't been cheap for the outside groups. They're ineligible for lower unit rates on ads, which may lead to different campaign advertising approaches in the next presidential election cycle.

"Given the stiff competition for airtime in battleground states and the resulting rise in the prices that outside group sponsors are paying, it is starting to dawn on political contributors that sending their money to these groups may not be the most efficient way to get their favored candidates elected," said Travis Ridout, another co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.  "I suspect that contributors may re-evaluate their giving patterns before 2016 rolls around."

Nov 5, 2012 5:07PM
What a horrendous waste of money, especially considering the miniscule amount of actual facts and digestible information that was presented. Would not a comprehensive booklet from each candidate stating exactly where they stood on specific issues and detailed descriptions on how they planned on executing their plans, with actual numbers and tangible specifics been much more informative? Instead, Voters were bombarded for months and months with political song, dance and name calling. It would be interesting to know what the excess cost in tax dollars was above and beyond that check box on form 1040. Saddest part is that it will all start over on Wednesday.
Nov 5, 2012 5:37PM
Can we just outlaw political advertising and just limit all candidates to mailing out one fact sheet about themselves and what they stand for to all Didn't think so....but damn it would be nice!
Nov 5, 2012 6:17PM

The voters that will decide this election are the ones who don’t drink either the Democrat controlled Media or Republican controlled Medias “kool aid”. We are sick and tired of both placing their parties agendas ahead of the countries needs. These wild back and forth elections between the two parties are just going to keep getting worse. Both parties keep mistaking a swing in their direction as a validation of their agendas and platforms. Nothing could be further from the truth; the swing is a rejection of the current parties promise for real change that was NOT delivered. The people of America are sick and tired of the Washington blame game. The party that figures this out and finally provides REAL and HONEST change will be a big winner, but neither party seem to be seems to be able to get their collective heads out of their own kool aid punch bowl and see reality. Practicing addicts never seem to be able to see their own future.                 

Nov 5, 2012 7:00PM

Just think how many of the poor people our President speaks so sympathetically about could have been fed and clothed with this money. And also think how many fewer ads we would not have been subjected to.

Makes one long for the days before Television, and internet!

Nov 5, 2012 10:25PM
Has the $ spent on media changed the GDP or employment enough to be measurable?
Nov 5, 2012 4:04PM
So TV moguls get rich thanks to a warped decision by the right wing 5 on the SCOTUS. This is why we need to bring back the 91% marginal tax rate in effect under the Eisenhower administration. Anyone care to call Eisenhower a socialist?
Nov 5, 2012 5:29PM
We're getting plenty of campaign ads here too.  If you watch the local channels, over half of the ads are for some candidate running for office.  Even if you switch to a cable/satellite channel, the Presidential ads still pop up.  Please make them go away!!
Nov 5, 2012 6:07PM
Micky, idiot, Eisenhower didn't pass those 90% tax rates, Sem-Socialist FDR did.
The Demoncats still ran Congress.
Nov 6, 2012 11:58AM
The only CLEAR WINNER is Madison Avenue and the heartless soul-less greedy grubbing stop-at-nothing no shame all-game no ethics throw it at us MARKETING SCUM that get rich off distorting the positions issues and premise for voting every other year. Instead of elected Officials doing what our nation needs done, we get career celebrities beholden to lobbies and the marketing shysters who have ruined us. It would be fitting and appropriate for America to go AD-FREE for the next year to ease us off the dunning. Who cares who wins, let's restore AMERICA and offing organized BIZ is where it begins. If you can manipulate-- you will-- there needs to be DEATH PENALTY for over the top marketing spewing.
Nov 6, 2012 5:59PM
I would really like to see a law limiting campaign spending.  If you're running for President you can spend X amount of dollars, running for Congress X amount of dollars, running for state office X amount of dollars, running for local office X amount of dollars.  The limits could be indexed each year for inflation.  Advertising by outside parties would count towards each candidate's limit.  In addition to reducing the amount of crap we're bombarded with it would also let us see how the candidate is able to manage his/her limited budget.  I'd also like to see penalties for ads with outright lies or half-truths. I realize this has about as much chance of happening as I have of winning the lottery, but it's nice to dream.  In the meantime, thank goodness for my DVR!
Nov 6, 2012 3:23PM
Sad all that money and hot air wasn't used to provide heat to the elderly folks who need it this winter. Waste not want not..... nope.... we never have to worry about waste not, there are plenty of politicians who already did it for us. The media decided the election months ago. No matter who wins the cost at the supermarket and the pharmacy wont' change, and Santa in my world got a lay-off about three years ago. My 6-year old nephew wrote down the things he will be thankful for on Thanksgiving: supper, his family, his dog and his pajamas, more wisdom than many so-called adults. The best outcome will be the finale to the political hog-wash on TV and the end to the political junk mail that over ran my mailbox, tomorrow I go back to my $12 an hour job and I am thankful I have the health to do it at an age when I should have been  retired 5+ years ago, ain't nothin' much going to change for us bottom of the ladder folks. 
Nov 5, 2012 6:51PM
Nov 5, 2012 5:45PM
How much does the "position" of president pay?  Isn't it less than half a million yearly?  If so, two million for  a four year term.  Let just kick it up to a million a year for a total of four million for a four year term.  Now, what dumba$$ would pay 266 million for a four million return???  I know it isn't his money but it is money.  It shows there has to be crooked business in government.  People, they say gas has decreased by 21 cents per gallon in the last two weeks.  If you don't think that is related to this election, go ahead and put the cronies back in office. That is reason for me to VOTE AGAINST EVERY INCUMBENT ON MY BALLOT TOMORROW!
Nov 5, 2012 5:50PM

Write down the price of gas tomorrow.  They say it has gone down 21 cents per gallon in the last two weeks.  Lets see how it goes up in the next two weeks.  Lets listen to the lies for the increase.  It is not  just the presidential election but the election of all the cronies.  I  hope the ones in office now get to go home and become unemployed after January.  PLEASE VOTE ALL INCUMBENTS OUT.  THAT IS OUR ONLY HOPE FOR THE NEXT FOUR YEARS!  Roby is hollering about the rise in debt now.  Why didn't she holler about it four years ago????  Put the trash by the street!!!!

Nov 5, 2012 4:30PM

"President Barack Obama led the tally in the total number of ads aired this election season, with more than 503,000 in 63 media markets at a cost of nearly $266 million. That's about half of all the total ads aired. It also leads the Romney campaign by a 2.6-1 margin in both estimated costs and ads aired. "


Yet, the dumb dependent dems claim the repubs bought the election. Stupid is as stupid does. You can reward dependency but you can't fix stupid. Hows that "hopey changy thingy "been working for ya? 13 million more on food stamps, 12% unemployment,  and $6 trillion more in debt. Democrats and trickle up poverty. Lets go another 4 years and add another 13 million to foodstamps and hit $20 trillion in debt.  

Nov 5, 2012 7:40PM
I think they just said Romney has been in 4 states today.  He hasn't worked for the poeple of Massachusetts today.  Clinton kept AF 1 hot, He was a draft dodger, according to reports but I guess he was good at getting young women to do oral sex on him.  Bush, Jr. went AWOL according to reports.  Neither Clinton nor Bronco Bama served in the military, yet they were "commander in chief" of the armed services.  Bronco claims credit for killing Bin Laden.  He only ordered it done.  George, Jr. ordered Hussein killed.  I don't think either will brag about taking a life when they get to hell. I give up!!! let Black Tuesday come and go!! Let a judge tell us who he picks for president.  People, lets try once more!  VOTE AGAINST ALL INCUMBENTS!  They are the ones who have us in this mess!
Nov 5, 2012 7:34PM
With no good choice for president, I think of tomorrow as being "Black Tuesday."  We won't know the full results for some time but whoever wins, in my opinion, will still be a disaster.  Why do we elect a "commander in chief" who has never served in the military?  Why would we elect a draft dodger?  Why would we elect one who reportedly went AWOL?  Why???  Look at Clinton, George, Jr. and Bronco Bama.  He keeps hollering about his being "commander in chief." I hope he will be relieved of that duty in January, but even if so, it won't be much better.  Ladies and gentlemen, our only chance as I see it is to shake up government by VOTING INCUMBENTS OUT. Bronco has been in 7 states and 3 time zones in the last 24 hours.  He surely hasn't worked for us in Washington!
Nov 5, 2012 8:01PM

Black Tuesday!  Corruption local level to national level!!! Corruption everywhere!!! And, we put these people back in office!!!  Alabama amendment number 8 says in part ".... to repeal the existing provisions for legislative compensation and expenses and establish the basic compensation of the Legislature at the median household income in Alabama...." Sounds good at first, huh?? Read carefully!!! They want a years salary at the "median household income" level for a part time job!  Now, there is more.  This is only BASIC income.  They want an expense account and they want the "median HOUSEHOLD income" to be adjusted yearly, a likely yearly salary increase!  HOUSEHOLD income...not individual income! I plan to VOTE AGAINST EVERY INCUMBENT!

Nov 5, 2012 4:04PM
The dems spent more but will complain about how much the repubs spent.
Nov 5, 2012 6:06PM
Some of these ads are ridiculous, the Hungarian dude who a newspaper article telling us has paid $1.7 billion in taxes complaining about the country becoming socialist and his tax dollars going to aid people less well off than he is.  I can't believe rich people can be that greedy.  I predict in a couple of days the Republicans will be saying they should have spent more on these idiot ads and that the reason they lost wasn't the message it was that we didn't hear enough of it.
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