eView: Political Marketers Have Embraced Web 2.0, But What About Online Advertising?
There is no question political and advocacy campaigns have embraced the Internet as part of the 2008 campaign cycle. Blogs, social networks and the YouTube phenomenon all are prevalent aspects of the marketing mix, and most campaigns have perfected fundraising and e-mail marketing online.
However, to date, the presidential campaigns have overlooked an opportunity to capitalize on what non-political marketers have known for years: online advertising works. Otherwise, it would not be a $20 billion industry, surpassing radio advertising revenue and continuing to grow at 20 percent each year. Today, online represents about 7 percent of all commercial advertising spending in the U.S., versus approximately 1 percent of advertising budgets in the political sector.
But don’t think political marketers are ignorant about the Web; they’re not. After all, Howard Dean proved you can move the masses to action online, and John Kerry, Ron Paul and John McCain are legendary for their online fundraising accomplishments. The campaigns also have proven to be sophisticated about e-mail acquisition and database marketing. Political marketers being hesitant to advertise online seems to stem more from the need for education and understanding than a lack of desire to embrace the channel.
Earlier this year, I co-authored a whitepaper with several political online experts to address this need. Titled “Best Practices for Political Advertising Online,” and published by the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet, the paper provides political marketers with the specifics they need to start fully embracing online advertising as a means to achieving their political objectives.
In addition to discussing the changed media environment and how to reach voters online, the paper explores the tactics related to political marketers, including search engine marketing, display advertising and lead generation.
The most obvious form of online advertising for most candidates is paid search, which is a key component of any integrated online advertising plan. But display advertising online, or “banner advertising” — including video — is the area with the most potential for political marketers. This can be achieved through portals (AOL, MSN, Yahoo), individual news sites and blogs (The Des Moines Register, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post) and ad networks (ValueClick Media, Advertising.com, etc.), which reach more than 70 percent of the U.S. Internet audience with sophisticated quality controls, targeting methods and campaign optimization capabilities in video and banner advertising.
Arguably, the online channel is more efficient than other forms of media, primarily television. There is as much, if not more, video inventory available online, and at much lower cost, including in-banner and in-stream video impressions that can be geo-targeted to key primary states. Political advertising online will not sell out, and candidates’ ads don’t run back-to-back against each other like they do on television. Furthermore, online advertising can be highly targeted based on contextual, demographic, psychographic, technographic and behavioral attributes. Viewers can’t skip ads online, and if they’re interested in learning more they’re just a click away from hearing the rest of the candidate’s message on his or her site and giving the candidate an opportunity to immediately engage them.
There have been separate reports from PQ Media and TNS Media Intelligence claiming this election cycle will generate less than $100 million online from political marketers. Compared to the approximately $3 billion that will be spent on television and $1 billion in direct response media, online advertising appears to be an overlooked channel that could give candidates a strategic advantage by incorporating it into the media mix. After all, online advertising is arguably more targetable, more measurable and more actionable than its offline counterparts, not to mention much less expensive than television advertising. Logic suggests it’s only a matter of time before political organizations realize — and act on — this.
In 2008, it will be in the strategic best interest of all presidential, congressional and gubernatorial candidates, parties, committees, associations and advocacy groups to embrace the online channel. Online advertising is a mature discipline that is proven to build awareness of issues, to persuade and lift voter intent, and to drive highly targeted traffic to sites where voters who do not watch television or who skip commercials altogether can be engaged in meaningful ways.
No matter what your marketing objective or who your audience is, there are plenty of highly credible, scalable and proven online advertising methods that can integrate seamlessly, though not effortlessly, into the overall marketing mix.
All things equal, those who begin applying their goals, objectives and political marketing experience to the online advertising channel will have a distinct advantage over those who do not.
Download the whitepaper “Best Practices for Political Advertising Online” here.
Tony Winders is vice president of marketing for ValueClick Media, a division of the Los Angeles-based integrated online marketing company ValueClick. Reach him at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared in the May 8 edition of eM+C Weekly, the e-letter of FS sister publication eM+C.