Mitt Romney becomes first politician to use Apple's iAd service

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's camp on Friday announced that he will be taking his campaign to iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users nationwide using Apple's iAd, making him the first politico to advertise through the service since it was introduced in 2010.

Romney's decision to use iAd is indicative of a trend toward mobile advertising, reports The Wall Street Journal, as President Barack Obama is also using ad networks to effectively target key demographics in a run up to the 2012 election.

Both parties are said to be leveraging demographic and geographic data mined by a variety of digital ad companies in hopes of swaying voters in swing states. An Apple spokesperson said that Romney's iAds are the first of their kind.

Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign's digital director, believes that people will "spend more time" with the iAds and said that the campaign will be experimenting with the mobile push leading up to the Republican convention in August. The camp is also using Google's mobile network to get information to Android users, effectively covering the entire smartphone market.

President Obama's campaign declined to divulge what mobile and internet ad resources it was using, but online ads for the incumbent Democrat have been seen on Google's network.

According to data compiled by Romney's digital team, mobile users drove a large amount of the traffic seen by the campaign's website and a majority of those visitors were using Apple devices.

Moffatt sees smartphone users as a captive audience, saying that a handset is "the most personal device you carry. We felt like we wanted to connect with people where they spend their time."

Screenshot from an upcoming Romney iAd video. | Source: WSJ

The Romney ads will initially coexist with traditional media and are slated to show up only on iPhones and iPads in states where concurrent TV spots are being run. Content will be interactive and are set to feature embedded videos as well as a link to download the "With Mitt" photo-sharing app.

"We're not looking to replace TV but to augment and amplify [it]," Moffatt said.

Apple's iAd service was at one time seen as a "billion dollar opportunity" due to the large installed base of iOS users, but slow adoption and diminishing interest forced the company to drop ad prices. The system was revamped and developer revenue increased from 60 percent to 70 percent earlier in 2012 to rekindle interest in the service.

According to a report by Borrell Associates campaigns and outside groups will spend just $159 million on digital advertising this year, a far cry from the estimated $7 billion expected to spent by the end of the race. As mobile devices proliferate and politicians learn more about the effectiveness of mobile advertising, services like iAd will likely account for an increasing amount of campaign spending. Both the Romney and Obama camps declined to disclose how much they plan to spend on mobile ads for 2012.

The iAd campaign is scheduled to kick-off next week.