By Amy Schatz
Political advertising is about to become a lot more common on some iPhones and iPads.
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's campaign said it is using Apple Inc.'s iAd mobile advertising service on an ad drive for the iPhone, iTouch and iPad devices. It is the first time a political candidate has used Apple's iAd service, which started in 2010, an Apple spokesman said.
The effort is part of a broader strategy by the campaigns of both President Barack Obama and Mr. Romney to use mobile ad networks and website-based advertising to target their messages at likely swing-state voters. Ad networks from Apple, Google Inc. and others allow advertisers to target specific demographic segments such as women or age groups, as well as focus on specific geographic areas.
"We think people will spend more time" with the ads, said Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign's digital director, adding that the campaign plans to experiment with the ad campaign over the next few months before the Republican convention.
Both campaigns are running ads on Google's online ad network, and the Romney campaign is using Google's mobile network to reach Android users.
The Obama campaign declined to comment on its mobile-ad efforts, and Apple declined to discuss the Romney iAd campaign.
Data compiled by the Romney digital team showed that mobile users constituted a large portion of the visitors to the campaign's website. Of those users, a majority were using Apple devices. A mobile phone is "the most personal device you carry. We felt like we wanted to connect with people where they spend their time," Mr. Moffatt said.
Apple's mobile ad system allows advertisers to buy ads that are embedded in applications downloaded by consumers. The company also helps develop the ads. Typically, users would see a banner ad at the bottom of the screen. If they click on it, they are taken to another screen showing a full-page ad with videos and information about the candidate's platform.
A Romney aide said the ads would aim to encourage voters to watch embedded TV ads or download the campaign's new "With Mitt" photo-sharing application.
Initially, the Romney ads will appear for iPhone or iPad users in the same states where the campaign is running TV ads. "We're not looking to replace TV but to augment and amplify," Mr. Moffatt said. The ads are scheduled to begin running next week.
This year, campaigns and outside groups, including super PACs, are expected to spend about $159 million on Internet ads, a small portion of the almost $7 billion expected to be spent overall this election cycle, according to a report by Borrell Associates. To date, the campaigns' spending represents a 600% increase from 2008. It is expected that mobile advertising will consume a greater portion of the campaigns' online advertising budgets, although neither the Obama nor Romney campaign would comment on how much they plan to spend.
-Write to Amy Schatz at Amy.Schatz@wsj.com