Web Ads Important, But TV's Still King

While there has been more Internet advertising activity in this year's presidential race than in the past, the money spent on Web ads still pales in comparison to that allocated for TV commercials, the first-ever study of online political ads found.

The study, released Monday by thePew Internet & American Life Project (search), said President Bush (search), Democrat John Kerry (search), their political parties and allied independent groups spent $2.6 million to post banner ads on Web sites from January through August.

That is less than 1 percent of the estimated $330 million spent for TV ads in the country's top 100 media markets over the same period, the study said.

"The presidential campaigns have virtually ignored the Internet as an advertising medium," said Michael Cornfield, the report's author. "That's somewhat surprising, because online advertising could be a good way for campaigns to get the attention of the tens of millions of eligible voters who use the Internet but have yet to visit a campaign site."

The study relied on data collected by Evaliant Media Resources from more than 2,000 commercial Web sites and compared it with figures from TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political TV ad spending.

Strategists in both parties say the Internet is valuable because it combines the targeting power of both TV ads and direct mail, allowing them to reach specific slices of voters. However, the strategists say TV ads still remain the most effective way to reach the masses.

The study found that Kerry's campaign spent more than $1.3 million on Internet ads, compared with $419,000 by Bush's campaign over the eight-month period. However, the Republican National Committee outspent its Democratic counterpart, $487,000 to $257,000. Independent groups spent less than $200,000.

The study found that Internet ads primarily have been used to raise money, not persuade voters.