Political Ad Season Well Under Way

NEW YORK If there was any doubt about the oncoming onslaught of political advertising, just take a look at a new analysis of Nielsen Monitor-Plus data released Monday.

Through June 10, more than 8,500 political ads had already aired on TV with more than 8,200 of them on local TV in Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Washington, D.C., and California.

With more than half the states holding presidential primaries or caucuses before Feb. 5, 2008, spending is expected to hit $750 million this year alone, according to an estimate by TNS Media Intelligence’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.

The biggest spender and the first to run a TV spot, Republican Mitt Romney leads the pack. Romney placed 4,549 spots (53 percent of the total), more than all the other candidates combined and more than double the number of the No. 2 spender, Democrat Bill Richardson, with 26 percent of the total, who concentrated his spending in Iowa and New Hampshire. Democrats Chris Dodd and John Edwards had 19 percent and 1 percent of the total ads placed, respectively.

Despite the radio industry’s efforts to reel in political ad dollars, only Romney and Republican Rudolph Giuliani have taken advantage of the medium. Giuliani has run 642 radio ads in every market tracked by Nielsen, while Romney has focused his 378 radio ads in New Hampshire and Central Florida.

While Republicans dominate traditional media, Democrats hold the lead in the blogosphere, generating more online mentions in blogs and online discussions by a nearly 2 to 1 ratio, according to Nielsen BuzzMetrics. Democratic Sen. Barack Obama has the greatest buzz, followed by Sen. Hillary Clinton. Of the Republicans, Sen. John McCain has the leading buzz score.

In online paid advertising, McCain had 12 times the exposure of other candidates, but places fourth in the number of unique visitors to a candidate Web site. Obama had the most unique visitors, followed by Clinton and Edwards.

The Nielsen Co. owns Adweek and Mediaweek.