Costly TV advertising influences only a relatively small
percentage of voters, but Obama made every dollar
count. Kantar Media CMAG projected that about $1.1 billion
would be spent on broadcast TV advertising. And in fact, our
preliminary estimate for actual spend is $953 million. TV
advertising is the single biggest undertaking of any campaign:
about 75% of everything a candidate raises goes to support it.
Republicans outspent Democrats on broadcast TV by our
preliminary estimate of $479 million to $396 million. The
Republican spending edge was expected. What was unexpected was that
Obama's campaign still either held its own or even retained the
advantage in most aspects of the air war.
Obama's ad people got a lot right and also got lucky. Start with
timing and tone. According to our early findings, 89% of Romney's
general election ad occurrences had a negative tone; 92% of all
Republican general election ad occurrences had a negative tone.
This was a serious risk for a nominee about whom the country knew
very little and whom Democrats raced to define with an early,
intense barrage of negative ads. Romney's improved poll standing
after the first debate suggests that if his campaign had chosen to
round out his profile earlier, the impact may have been
TV advertising really only matters at the margin, influencing a
small pool of undecided voters and possibly boosting turnout among
likely supporters. This means that increasingly large sums are
spent to affect the choices of fewer and fewer people. But three of
our last four presidential elections have been decided at the
margin, including 2012, so the onslaught has had a critical
Obama's campaign won the air war by making the very most of its
resources and deploying all the weapons in the advertising arsenal.
As much money as was spent in 2012, quality and quality control
ultimately mattered more.
Source: Kantar Media