Presidential Hopefuls Display Online Ad Maturity

  |  January 22, 2008   |  Comments

Ads run in December showed a greater willingness to experiment with innovative ad creative and messaging.

ClickZ_Campaign08_katefinal.jpg Presidential campaigns may not be spending tons on Web ads, but they've recently shown a greater willingness to experiment with innovative ad creative and messaging. Though these advertisers are typically less savvy than commercial marketers, ads placed by the campaigns in December leading to the Iowa caucuses revealed a maturing approach to online advertising.

According to Nielsen Online AdRelevance information, Obama for President, Romney for President and John McCain '08 introduced new display ads last month, while Richardson for President took the Web ad leap for the first time with a somewhat shocking anti-war ad. Obama's and Richardson's camps also appeared to be the first presidential campaigns to geo-target messaging in display ads -- in this case, to Iowa voters.

Along with issue-based ads focused on healthcare for veterans, Bill Richardson's campaign stressed the former Democratic candidate's outraged anti-war stance, even implying profanity. "Continue war in Iraq until 2013? 2013! What the @$#!?" exclaimed the ad, which included forecasts of the numbers of deaths, casualties and dollars to be spent on the war by that year. "The cost of war is already too high," concluded the ad, prompting users to click-through and visit www.2013istoolate.com.

Taking a cue from online ads placed by McCain's and Clinton's campaigns, the 2013istoolate.com micro-site urged visitors to sign a petition, a tactic used primarily in McCain's ads to garner supporters' contact information. "Sign the petition: We want a President who will end the war their first day of office and who has the guts to commit to having ALL the troops out in 2009," stated the site.

The Richardson camp also featured Iowa-centric messages within ad copy itself. "The war in Iraq has cost Iowans $3.5 billion," read one creative, linking to another micro-site, thedifferenceoniraq.com. The campaign even pushed a specific event in Des Moines in ads suggesting voters, "Join former U.N. Ambassador and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Governor Bill Richardson for a speech on the crisis in Pakistan." Richardson's now defunct campaign ran about 13,000 display ad impressions in December, according to AdRelevance.

Ads for fellow Democrat Barack Obama were not only targeted to Web users in Iowa, they included Iowa caucus-related messages. One promoted a Precinct Finder, Caucus FAQ, Student Center and Local Obama Events. For months, the campaign has used generalized display ads to promote campaign events and collect supporter sign-ups.

Obama for America also drove registrations through ads declaring, "Show Your Support. Request a Free Bumper Sticker." The campaign ran over 10 million ad impressions in December, the most among all candidate campaigns according to AdRelevance. Most showed up on Yahoo, which has attracted the majority of presidential campaign ads this election season.

Mimicking a campaign run earlier in 2007, Romney for President set a specific fund raising goal and gave it a name: Media Victory Fund. Display units featuring pop-art style graphics and bright colors told supporters to, "Tune in to Victory. Help Put Mitt Over the Top. $1,000,000 Media Victory Fund. Be Part of Mitt's TV Campaign." An earlier effort pushed "Project 44," and aimed to collect $44 from donors to support his run to be the 44th President.

Another new ad creative was more persuasion-oriented, promoting the former Massachusetts Governor's "clear vision of change America." The ad told voters, "He did it in business, the Olympics, and in Massachusetts and He can do it in Washington." AdRelevance data show Romney for President ran about 1.5 million display ad impressions in December, many of which were seen on HuffingtonPost.com.

Many of the ads for Romney rival John McCain used pork barrel spending as an issue hook to entice supporters to sign a petition. "Three million of your tax dollars to study the DNA of bears in Montana. I don't know if that's a paternity issue or a criminal issue," read the humorous ads, which also had been run by the campaign in previous months.

In what appeared to be new ad creative, another leaderboard unit featured embedded video of the Senator in his younger years serving in Vietnam, a Web video used by the campaign for months to display McCain's "Courageous Service." John McCain '08 has vacillated throughout the primary season, running both large and relatively small numbers of ad impressions in given months. In December, the camp ran just 276,000 according to AdRelevance, far fewer than in other months.

Republican Ron Paul continued to benefit from supporters not affiliated with his campaign who placed ads on his behalf. Small half-banner ads placed through free forum and community hosting service Network54 read, "Ron Paul 2008 Hope for America." It is unclear who placed those ads, but in October, AdRelevance tracked ads promoting Paul placed by Americans United for Freedom PAC.

December 2007 Ads by
John McCain 2008
Ad Copy Call to Action Ad Sizes Number of Impressions
"McCain" "www.JohnMcCain.com" 120x90 Button 96,000
"One man has the experience One man has the courage One man has our trust John McCain for President." "Join Our Team" 728x90 Leaderboard 76,000
"Three million of your tax dollars to study the DNA of bears in Montana. I don't know if that's a paternity issue or a criminal issue." "Stop Pork Barrel Spending. Sign the Petition." 728x90 Leaderboard 75,000
"Courageous Service Experienced Leadership Bold Solutions, Watch Courageous Service Video" "Play Video" 728x90 Leaderboard 29,000
Source: Nielsen Online, AdRelevance, 2008

mccain_couragevideo.jpg

December 2007 Ads by
Obama for America
Ad Copy Call to Action Ad Sizes Number of Impressions
"Meet Barack Obama. Sign Up for Invitations to Campaign Events" "Join Us" 120x600 Skyscraper 9,230,000
"Barack Obama for President. Visit the Official Campaign Website." "Join Us" 728x90 Leaderboard, 180x150 Rectangle 328,000
"Help Elect Barack Obama President of the United States. Visit the official campaign website" "Join Us" 728x90 Leaderboard, 180x150 Rectangle, 300x250 Medium Rectangle 153,000
"Show Your Support." "Request a Free Bumper Sticker" 728x90 Leaderboard, 160x600 Wide Skyscraper 113,000
n/a "Join Us" 180x150 Rectangle, 300x250 Medium Rectangle 103,000
"Barack Obama caucus information. UPDATED Precinct Finder, Caucus FAQ, Student Center, Local Obama Events" "Join Us" 728x90 Leaderboard 61,000
"Meet Barack Obama. Sign Up for Invitations to Campaign Events." "Join Us" 728x90 Leaderboard 43,000
"Barack Obama for President. Iowa Caucus information. UPDATED Precinct Finder, Caucus FAQ, Student Center, Local Obama Events" "Join Us" 728x90 Leaderboard, 300x250 Medium Rectangle 13,000
"Show your Support. Attend Local Campaign Events." "Join Us" 300x250 Medium Rectangle 11,000
"Obama for President. Visit the Official Campaign Website." "Join Us" 468x60 Full Banner, 120x600 Skyscraper 8,000
"Obama '08. Visit the Official Campaign Website." "Join Us" 300x250 Medium Rectangle 6,000
"Get to Know Barack Obama. Sign Up for Invitations to Campaign Events" "Join Us" 468x60 Full Banner 5,000
Source: Nielsen Online, AdRelevance, 2008

obama_iowacaucus.jpg

December 2007 Ads by
Bill Richardson for President
Ad Copy Call to Action Ad Sizes Number of Impressions
"Continue war in Iraq until 2013? 2013! What the @$#!? The cost of war is already too high. www.2013istoolate.com, DEATHS by 2013 6,940, CASUALTIES by 2013 103,370, DOLLARS in millions by 2013 866,000" "n/a" 728x90 Leaderboard 713,000
"Bill Richardson President, Universal health care? Doubled teachers salaries? An alternative energy economy? Not until we stop spending $10 billion a month in Iraq. Bill Richardson is the only major candidate who will end the war in Iraq in his first year in office, and leave no residual troops. www. thedifferenceoniraq .com" "n/a" 728x90 Leaderboard 4,000
"Bill Richardson President, The war in Iraq has cost Iowans $3.5 billion. And this country $10 billion per month. Waiting to end the war until 2013? The cost is too high for Iowa, and too high for America.www. thedifferenceoniraq .com" "n/a" 728x90 Leaderboard 3,000
"Bill Richardson President. A Heroes Health Card for veterans, ensuring them the quality care they deserve. Quality health care for PTSD and other mental trauma. Access to affordable behavioral health care for all Americans." "Read Bill Richardson's plan for behavioral health care at www. richardsonforpresident .com." 728x90 Leaderboard 3,000
"Join former U.N. Ambassador and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Governor Bill Richardson for a speech on the crisis in Pakistan. 12.28.07, 9:15 AM, Des Moines Botanical Gardens, 909 Robert D. Ray Drive." "RSVP Now" 728x90 Leaderboard 2,000
Source: Nielsen Online, AdRelevance, 2008

richardson_2013.jpg

December 2007 Ads by
Romney For President
Ad Copy Call to Action Ad Sizes Number of Impressions
"Tune in to Victory. Help Put Mitt Over the Top. $1,000,000 Media Victory Fund. Be Part of Mitt's TV Campaign." "Contribute. Experience. Vision. Values." 728x90 Leaderboard, 160x600 Wide Skyscraper, 300x250 Medium Rectangle, 120x600 Skyscraper, 1,332,000
"Mitt Romney has a clear vision of change America. He did it in business, the Olympics, and in Massachusetts and He can do it in Washington." "Join Team Mitt. Experience. Vision. Values." 728x90 Leaderboard, 300x250 Medium Rectangle, 160x600 Wide Skyscraper 194,000
Source: Nielsen Online, AdRelevance, 2008

romney_media.jpg

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Kaye

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.

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