October 24th, 2008
02:07 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama spending more on ads than all but AT&T and Verizon

 Obama's campaign has spent $250 million on ads in the past four months.

Obama's campaign has spent $250 million on ads in the past four months.

(CNN) - Presidential candidates are sold in much the same way a new product is: with an expensive, flashy, and ubiquitous television campaign.

And according to advertising figures provided by Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN's consultant on ad spending, Barack Obama's campaign has spent more money selling its candidate on television than most major brand name companies do selling their products.

The Illinois senator's campaign is projected to have spent $250 million on ads in the last four months - a number that is equivalent to $750 million in a full year. Only AT&T, with a yearly advertising budget of about $1.3 billion, and Verizon, which shells out $950 million a year on ads, spends more than the Democratic presidential nominee.

But most major companies spend far less than Obama, including McDonald’s ($588 million), Sprint PCS ($482 million), T-Mobile ($404 million), Target ($388 million), and Wal-Mart ($335 million).

John McCain is projected to have spent about $110 million since the general election began.

"This advertising spending by Obama is big, and not just in terms of presidential politics but in terms of all commercial advertising – he has spent enough to be a mega-brand," CMAG's Evan Tracey said.

Obama's massive advertising budget is also a stark reminder of just how much it costs to finance a modern presidential campaign — and, predicts Tracey, it could just end the era of public financing.

"If Obama wins it is clear that the days of being on public financing are over and anyone thinking of running for president in four years will have to ask themselves one question before jumping in – Can I raise $600 million?" said Tracey.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (318 Responses)
  1. Get2008OverWith

    I could care less about paid political advertisements – akin to watching "As seen on TV" advertisements. Public exposure of candidates that is worthwhile is a function of the news media and oddly during this campaign via SNL and the Colbert Report.

    It seems to me that the brains (if you can call them that) behind the scenes organizing campaigns haven't a clue as to how to reach mainstream Americans – TV advertisements work for the Super Bowl – who in their right mind pays any attention or makes a decision about a candidate by watching a blooming ad?

    My impressions of McCain – An angry old man. Obama – a risk, but the lesser of two evils. Labels that stick – McRage, that Tiger Woods Guy, the Hot Babe. Sorry none were based on any advertisement.

    October 24, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  2. John

    He said he was "scrappy".
    Good to see...as O'rielly put it....
    "He has totally shredded the most powerful political machine on earth".

    Actually, the people have.

    October 24, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  3. stacy

    it is probably an indication of what he will do with our money if he
    gets in office hand in hand with Pelosi and Reed.

    October 24, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  4. Independent voter

    Obama has definitely changed the way of fund-raising. His transparency in his campaign, youtube speeches, Obama iphone backgrounds, Facebook appearances, and blocking McCain from purchasing good slots for advertising. Whether you like him or not, you gotta give it to the guy. His campaign is running like a well-oiled machine. These are the folks who brought down the Clinton Dynasty. Times are changing.

    October 24, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  5. Holding my Breath

    we work for Verizon, no wonder they cry poverty all the way to the bank.

    October 24, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  6. Preco, NY

    Are you not tired of these smear tactics?

    Sister Sarah is waiting in the wings to be the next GOP candidate.

    Your campaign staffers are rating out each other.

    McCain you are all by yourself, look beyond the Plumber's crack and you will see how you are been set-up by your own team!!

    Try to salvage what is left of your battered image and leave Senator Obama alone, he is not the source of your problems, your campaign wounds are self inflicted, the biggest gash being the pick of sister Sarah!!!

    October 24, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  7. norma - wisconsin

    If I recall, in the last two elections the Republicans were spending a ton more money than the Dems had. No one mentioned that then, because Bush had all the big CEO's and oil people behind him. We never lost either of those races because the majority thought Bush was the better person – no, we lost because we didn't have the financing we do this year. In a sometimes subtle way, the media is going along with the Repubs in making it look like there's something unethical about it, now that Obama has accumulated so much he can afford to do what we couldn't do before. Not only are they hypocritical, but the media is too if they're infering the same. That's what wins in politics, money. When the GOP can pay $150,000 in clothes for their trophy v.p., and the wife of the GOP candidate can spend hundreds of thousands on her clothes (I don't care if its her family's money, or the CEO of Enron) – that's extravagant. To make fun of Michele Obama for wearing a $65.00 dress on the View seems quite condescening in my mind. If Obama wears a $150.00 suit and McCain wears $150.00 pair of shoes – that's quite so bad, as people I know who make less than $100,000 a year wouldn't think that's expensive. However, the jest of the whole thing is ludacrous when you have to dress up the nominated vice presidential candidate because she hasn't anything but her looks and clothes to run on. Gee, I wonder if the Dems paid for Hillary's pantsuits that everyone laughed at and made jokes about. I guess she didn't get designer pant suits like Cindy McCain, that cost thousands of dollars. I'll take Hillary and Michele anyday – and after the election, I think we'll see more of these lesser expensive materialistic spending by President Obama.

    October 24, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  8. Andrew

    Of course he has to spend more than those companies...
    (1) Those other brands have already established their name, for them its only maintenance spending!...Not only in Barack trying to establish his name with American, he apparently has to defend it to close-minded idiots who think he sounds like a terrorist!
    (2) His product is more important, if the consumers by the other guy (Brand X) then the country goes to hell!

    October 24, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  9. ObamaVolunteer

    KC, the millions of dollars the campaign is spending are from those of us who freely donated funds to support the democratice nominee. When Senator Obama gets elected, he will do better than the current administration head by using money generated by our tax dollars more wisely in order to benefit this Country. The taxes paid do not come from your taxes alone; we all pay taxes KC.

    Isn't if funny how CNN reports on the two companies that placed a tower for the convenience of the McCains? You see KC, money not only talks, but it gets results.

    October 24, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  10. Liberated!

    Such a pity he has to be using sooo much money to try to combat the McAngry lies!

    October 24, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  11. tiffany in ohio

    yeah!!!!!! Way to go OB you are spending my donations'ssssss very wisely.

    October 24, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  12. xcusme

    Beats spending on clothes. The money he received is used to buy ads. He is outspending because more people have donated to him for this purpose. Unlike the other group that took what little they had to dress up the attack dog.

    Oh by the way lets talk about the hoax the lady pulled about getting attacked by a Obama supporter because she had a McPalin sticker on her car. She has been arrested.

    Wow....sad they are scraping the bottom.

    October 24, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  13. Debbie

    Don't forget AT&T and Verizon, who sent all your phone records to teh government.

    Let's be clear: This money has come most from AMERICANS ... just normal people, many who can send small amounts. And I get the records show many are not only NEW, first time donors, but there are probably a number of repeat donors as well.

    After 2000, they know what it takes to win an election. Sad commentary in terms of having to spend a bazillion on an electin – but Obama is spending the money to win, which is why people donated it in the first place.

    October 24, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  14. Debbie

    As of August 1st, the RNC had a $150 million advantage over the Democratic party. This is a huge discrepancy and is why there have been only two Democratic presidents in the last 40 years.

    The reason so many Republicans voted for the McCain/Feingold bill was because they knew the RNC always raises $100-200 million more than the Democratic Party.

    True campaign finance reform requires that NO advertising from anyone other than the candidates. This means, banning the Swift Boat attacks.
    Force both candidates to start with the amount of money and they cannot take any donations.
    Ads need to be limited to only the candidates finances

    Ban donations to all parties (Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, etc). Everyone gets the same money and the best candidate wins.

    October 24, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |

    Hey CNN- FYI.. I just went online to donate another $50 to Obama because I don't want him to run out of money to win this election. McCain is slick and sleazy and Obama must fight against McCain negative ads. People give whatever you can.

    Let's get Obama in office.

    October 24, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  16. k

    Those millions of dollars represent public money. Money from average Joe's like me who want their voices heard.
    The real point is: this is how much it costs to drown out the voices of special interests. If Obama wins, and I hope he does, it will show the public wanted to be heard and it was willing to put its money where its mouth and aspirations are.

    October 24, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  17. John

    to kc and all the other repugs thanks for the money, we will spend your money well but not on the rich anymore. keep that check book out we are going to want some more of your money too. Lord know we have given enough of our the last eight years so I see it as getting a good return for your missmanagement.

    October 24, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  18. John S

    Republicans are upset that they are being outspent in this election. Before,it was the republican money machine that always spent more than democrats. Now they tide has turned and they are getting a taste of their own medicine. How does it feel boys? Remember that famous word? KARMA

    October 24, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  19. Spider

    There ya go!!!

    Hope. Change. One of us.

    Spend more money than the other guy, and 99% of the corporations you plan on taxing, and you're bound to get elected, experienced or not.

    Where did all this money come from? Oh yeah, $5 and $10 Internet donations. I believe that.

    October 24, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  20. Obamabot

    I donated....will shell out a little bit more to donate in these last days... Go on president Obama. At least that donation was not forced out of me.

    October 24, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  21. Elizabeth - Texas - Former Republican

    So what – McCain go tell somebody that cares.

    Your VP spent $150,000 of Republican money on clothes and she isn't through yet.

    October 24, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  22. Catholic-mom-4-OBAMA

    GLAD to see that our donations are being put to good use. I find it interesting with all the far-right-folks on these blogs that McCain has not made more money. Everyone I know whom is supporting Sen. Obama has donated to his campaign.....monthly!

    I heard on NPR that the majority of donations are coming from Retirees and Students!

    The average donations ..........$86.


    October 24, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  23. j

    Obama has the money to spend donated from supporters so why not?

    October 24, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  24. Eric

    I mailed my vote in today for SENATOR OBAMA. I encourage everyone else to do the same as early as possible.

    I wish his grandmother prayers for a healthy recovery to see him inaugurated in January.

    I do think some type of apology is owed from this "attacked" woman (who lied) from an Obama supporter. I cant seem to bring myself to have sympathy for ignorance.

    October 24, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  25. Dazed and Confused


    What money? doyou make more than $250,000? If so, you should be happy to help Americans that are less fortunate. If not, sit down and leave your conservative view points to those that are like you. I am tired of you Repubes calling everyone out but not looking at the big picture, which is we all live in this country and should be willing to help eachother in a time of need. You are just a greedy ignorant fool.........

    October 24, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
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