Battle for Voter Eyeballs

Forget sleeping pills and click on YouTube, where an endless cavalcade of campaign videos and campaign video ads will rock you to sleep.If you are a political junky or just a Web surfer, you will probably get your fill and then some of online political advertising. In fact, political ad buys are so intense there may be little space left for anything else.

Observers estimate that campaign spending on digital media ads will increase by seven times or more since 2008.

What has caught the attention of many grumbling online dwellers is the profusion of campaign ads on YouTube, including massive banners and 15- to 30-second pre-roll ads before selected videos.

“There has been incredibly strong demand for online video advertising inventory in targeted states, so there is virtually no 30-second inventory left for the fall,” says Rob Saliterman, head of Republican advertising outreach for Google, which owns YouTube. "Campaigns are buying it up for September and October and the first week of November.”

Kari Chisholm of Mandate Media, who is based in Portland and working on a Nevada congressional campaign, told the Las Vegas Sun, "We're all trying to run through the same door at the same time."

Fueling the spending binge of online advertising is the lack of available ad space on TV and radio in battleground states and local markets with hotly contested political races. "The TV inventory has been bought up and there's only so much direct mail you can send," explains Jim Walsh of DSPolitical.

You can't just take a sabbatical from YouTube to escape the onslaught. The presidential campaigns, leaving little to chance, have purchased trending topics, at $120,000 each, on Twitter to attract more viewers in what one blogger calls a "battle for eyeballs." Romney started the trend, but Obama has reportedly outspent him on the tactic.

Media websites are chock-full of political ads, too, including full-blown rebuttals of the other guy's Web ads.

However, video is the joust of choice between the Obama and Romney campaigns.

Which leads to the question of who is winning the video war? YouTube isn't telling, but the Unruly 2012 Election Tracker provides some interesting factoids, such as noting that Obama videos have earned considerably more views and "shares" than Romney's. Romney did best Obama on the number of comments his videos received on YouTube. 

David Waterhouse, Unruly's Head of Content, says a Democratic negative ad about GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is Obama's top video attraction, with 47,000 shares. Ryan's speech contained in a video titled "America's Comeback Team" is the Republican chart-topper with 66,000 shares.

Waterhouse examined the top 10 videos for both campaigns and found Romney produced five negative and five positive ones, while Obama's mix was three negative and seven positive. He said Romney's most shared video over the last week was "We've Heard it All Before." Obama's was "Faces of Change: Free Screenings Saving Lives."

With relentless TV, radio, billboard and now social media advertising, it is hard to fathom how anyone in America can claim they don't know about the presidential election. If someone has figured out how to tune out all this political noise, they should quickly get a patent and sell their secret. It could be the biggest job-creating idea of the political season.

Presidential campaigns are swallowing almost all available ad space on social media sites such as YouTube, leaving one to wonder who is winning the battle for voter eyeballs.