Voters know the names Obama and McCain, but that doesn't mean they know who's running for their district's city council seat. Without a national media spotlight, local candidates have a far greater need to establish name recognition and communicate ideas, and some have used online ads to do it.
This summer, when local campaigns were getting underway, candidates for Senate on down to county property appraiser used Web ads to familiarize citizens with their names, as well as their stances on the issues. Information on the ads was provided by Nielsen Online.
"With a degree and experience in Economic Development Larry's job was to create more jobs. That's someone worth voting for," noted ads seen in August for Larry Ishmael, a Republican running for Washington's 1st U.S. Congressional district seat. Another ad touted Ishmael's commitment to environmental issues: "Larry was in charge of the largest Environmental Clean Air Project in the world," declared the ad.
Like Republicans Mitch McConnell, Senator from Kentucky, and presidential hopeful Senator John McCain, Congressman Charlie Dent used gas prices to attract interested voters and donors to his campaign for re-election to Pennsylvania's 15th District Congressional seat. "Held at Gas Point? Congressman Charlie Dent has a commonsense energy policy for America," read some of his ads. Ads were placed on conservative sites like TownHall, Newsmax, and National Review, in addition to DrudgeReport.com and Pennsylvania-specific sites such as GrassrootsPA and PoliticsPA.
The campaign also bought issue-based Google keywords relating to immigration, border security and energy, targeting ads to residents of the district, according to Dent Campaign Manager Shawn Millan. "We spent around $30,000 or so, maybe more," on online advertising this summer, he added.
But the campaign stopped running Web ads in mid-September, said Tim Perskie, president of full service consulting firm Wavelength Communications, which is handling media for several local political campaigns including Dent's. The campaign bought the display and search ads "as a prelude to our traditional media [campaign]," said Perskie. "We were doing it to get an early edge and get our name out there," he told ClickZ News, adding, "It was sort of like digital yard signs all over the Web."
Now that the campaign's television effort is in full force, Perskie said he doesn't think online is a requirement any longer. "We bought so much airtime...across every demographic," he said, suggesting that because voter turnout for this year's election is expected to be high, "You don't need to go and try to find [voters].... You don't have to worry about people coming out."
Gary Murrell, running on the Green Party ticket in Washington's 6th Congressional district, used Web ads seen in August to communicate several campaign points. His ads checked off a list of his accomplishments: "Active Critic of Iraq War, Vietnam Era Veteran, Advocate for Human Rights, Active in Union Leadership."
Even North Dakota Governor John Hoeven, a Republican hoping for re-election -- and obviously a better-known candidate in his state -- used Web ads to remind voters of his record and campaign promises. "30,000 new jobs and 15,000 more waiting to be filled.... $300 million education funding reform and tax relief plan," stated ads seen in August.
Unlike presidential candidates, explained Perskie, local candidates get limited media exposure. So, rather than using their Web ads mainly to gather donations or registrations, they're more likely to take on the additional purpose of establishing the name and platform of a candidate. "A presidential campaign has a lot more exposure," said Perskie. "People know who they are already."
Statewide and local candidates, on the other hand, often are not well known and operate on shoestring budgets in comparison. "They have to increase their name ID., but they also have to...tell you what they're all about," he continued. "They're at a definite disadvantage."
Local Candidates Who Ran Online Display Ads in July 2008
According to Nielsen Online
U.S. Senator John Cornyn for re-election to U.S. Senate, Texas (R)
Kay Hagan for U.S. Senate, North Carolina (D)
Jared Polis for U.S. House of Representatives, Colorado's 2nd District (D)
Mark Udall for U.S. Senate, Colorado (D)
Robert Wexler for U.S. House of Representatives, Florida's 19th District (D)
Local Candidates Who Ran Online Display Ads in August 2008
According to Nielsen Online
Governor John Hoeven for re-election, North Dakota, (R)
Gary Murrell for U.S. House of Representatives, Washington's 6th District (Green Party) Judge Laura Gene Middaugh for re-election, King County Superior Court, Washington (D)
Stewart Nelson for Ward 2 City Council, Ann Arbor, Michigan (D)
Congressman Dave Reichert for re-election to U.S. House of Representatives, Washington's 8th District (R)
William Russell for U.S. House of Representatives, Pennsylvania's 12 District, (R)
Jack Shepard for U.S. Senate, Minnesota (R)
Dan Sowell for Property Appraiser, Bay County, Florida (R)
Local Candidates Who Ran Online Display Ads in July and August 2008
According to Nielsen Online
Allen Alley for State Treasurer, Oregon (R)
Congressman Charlie Dent for re-election, Pennsylvania's 15th District (R)
Jim Esch for U.S. House of Representatives, Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District (D) Larry Ishmael U.S. House of Representatives, 1st congressional district, Washington (R)
Jim Johanson for Superior Court Judge, Snohomish County, Washington (D)
District Attorney Phill Kline, Johnson County, Kansas (R)
U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell for re-election, Kentucky (R)
Fred Schott for Circuit Judge, Orange-Osceola, Florida
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions for re-election, Alabama (R)
Mark Warner for U.S. Senate, Virginia (D)
Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
June 5, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT