Amid an extraordinarily media-driven presidential campaign, the Internet has loomed large, influencing everything from fundraising to fact-checking.
Nielsen Online recently analyzed the online presidential campaign, examining online advertising by the candidates, Web traffic and online video viewing at both campaign's sites, and blog buzz related to the election.
Senator Barack Obama’s campaign ramped up its online advertising in mid-September. Image-based ad impressions by the Obama campaign grew 202% from September 15 to 22 -- and by another 94% by September 29.
In mid-October, Obama’s campaign also stepped up its sponsored link advertising, surpassing McCain’s sponsored link advertising for the first time.
In contrast, Sen. McCain's online advertising push came in the weeks just before the Republican National Convention. McCain boosted image-based ad impressions by 261% between August 11 and 22, but after announcing Palin as his running mate, scaled back his display advertising. Between August 25 and September 7, McCain's image-based online advertising dropped by 85%.
Web Traffic To Campaign Sites
Unique visitors to BarackObama.com outpaced those to JohnMcCain.com nearly two to one in September. The unique audience at BarackObama.com went from 6.1 million in August to 7.9 million in September (+31%).
During the same time period, JohnMcCain.com's unique audience grew by 56% -- from 2.7 million to 4.2 million unique visitors.
Video Viewing Via Campaign Websites
Total video streams at JohnMcCain.com surged by 175% in September -- from 1.2 million streams in August to 3.2 million in September. Unique video viewers at the McCain's site also increased 175% last month, from 475,000 viewers in August to 1.3 million in September.
In comparison, video streams at BarackObama.com saw less dramatic growth (+60%). Visitors to the site viewed 1.3 million streams in August, and 2.0 million streams in September. Unique viewers at Obama's site also increased by 35% in September, from 824,000 viewers in August to 1.1 million last month.
Candidate Blogosphere Buzz
Online buzz about the two presidential candidates is increasing as Election Day approaches. In general, spikes in blog buzz during October coincided with the presidential and vice presidential debates on October 2, 7, and 15.
In the days leading up to and following Obama's October 29 TV infomercial, online discussions of Obama have outpaced those referencing McCain.
Candidate Online Brand Associations
In online discussions, McCain and Obama are most closely associated with each other, followed by their running mates.
Nielsen Online's proprietary Brand Association Maps chart the attributes most closely associated with each candidate in online discussions. In general, BAM analysis provides an unaided, unsolicited, real-time barometer of consumer perceptions of and attitudes toward a topic discussed online.
Although McCain has tried to downplay several public relations challenges that occurred during his campaign, the terms “Katie Couric,” “Interview,” and “David Letterman” are as closely associated with him as “reform,” “economy,” and “Freddie Mac.”
Similarly, Obama's efforts to distance himself from real estate developer Tony Rezko and Rev. Jeremiah Wright failed -- in the online realm, at least. Obama is as closely associated with “Rezko,” “Plumber,” and “Wright” as he is with “economy,” “financial,” and “reform.”
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Read more about the media's role in the election, in the latest issue of Nielsen’s “Consumer Insight” online newsletter.