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McCain Sticks with No Surrender Message in Web Ads

  |  September 27, 2007   |  Comments

UPDATE: Forty percent of the ads run in August by John McCain 2008 used the No Surrender message according to Nielsen//NetRatings AdRelevance.

ClickZ_Campaign08_katefinal.jpgUPDATE: In November 2007, Nielsen Online AdRelevance, formerly Nielsen/NetRatings AdRelevance, provided ClickZ News with revised data on political advertisers for the months of April through September 2007. The amended information affected several stories, including this one, published by ClickZ during that time period. Detailed corrections can be found below the following original story.*

Original Story:
Online efforts by political advertisers are often different from those run on traditional media when it comes to message or mission. But in August, John McCain's Web campaign seemed right in line with his offline messaging. The Republican presidential candidate's recently-launched "No Surrender" tour was buttressed by his campaign's online ad creative. Forty percent of the ads run last month by John McCain 2008 declared, "Surrender is not an option," and others focused on the candidate's leadership, mettle and experience, according to information tracked by Nielsen//NetRatings AdRelevance.

John McCain 2008 was the only presidential campaign that ran online display ads that were picked up by AdRelevance last month; however, display ads from other campaigns on blogs or other small sites, or even sites as large as Yahoo, have fallen off AdRelevance's radar.

In June and July, the majority of image ads placed by the McCain campaign focused on issues like pork barrel spending and "straight talk." May was the last time the majority of the campaign's ads featured the "Surrender is not an option" creative.

In analyzing AdRelevance data, ClickZ News determined the McCain campaign has adjusted its media buys over the past few months. Fark.com, a humorous news aggregator site well-trafficked by younger males, was a big recipient of McCain ad money in August when it garnered 26 percent of the 191,000 total impressions run by the campaign, or 51,000 impressions. AdRelevance data show Fark.com accounted for 3 percent of John McCain 2008 impressions in July, 13 percent in June, and less than a percent in May.

While Fark, a seemingly unlikely home of a conservative presidential candidate's advertising, was the benefactor of campaign optimization, it appears more likely spots such as conservative content sites National Review Online and Townhall.com have lost out. National Review grabbed 13 percent of the total impressions run by the campaign in August, or 25,000 impressions. In July, according to AdRelevance data, the McCain campaign ran 50 percent of its ads on the site, up from 23 percent in June and less than 3 percent in May.

Townhall.com in May got the lion's share of ads run by the McCain campaign, a whopping 71 percent of the 8.5 million impressions that ran that month. Since then, AdRelevance hasn't picked up any McCain ads on the site. Also in May, financial sites TheStreet.com and Investors.com served more than 500,000 McCain ad impressions each; none have appeared on the sites since according to the measurement firm.

Most likely, the decision to alter placements has been based on ROI measures. For instance, a primary focus of all presidential campaigns at this point in the election season is fundraising. So if particular media placements aren't performing well in terms of the amount raised through those ads, the campaign probably chose to optimize by reallocating ad dollars to better performing sites.

Though John McCain 2008 tapered its display advertising in June and July when summertime often calls for an advertising reduction, it appears to be ramping back up. In August, the campaign ran 191,000 impressions according to AdRelevance, up from 63,000 in July and a mere 21,000 in June. The effort started its official campaign launch with a bang in April, running 11.5 million impressions, and slicing that down to 8.5 million in May.

mccainsurrender.jpg

August 2007 Ads by
John McCain 2008
Ad Copy Call to Action Ad Sizes Number of Impressions Sites/Networks
"Surrender is not an option" "Sign the Petition today" 300x250 Medium Rectangle, 160x600 Wide Skyscraper 79,000 Valueclick, Google
"America Deserves Experience. America Deserves Straight Talk. McCain." "Join John McCain" 160x600 Wide Skyscraper, 300x250 Medium Rectangle, 728x90 Leaderboard 31,000 Google
$74 million tax dollars for peanut storage costs? That's Nuts! $100 million tax dollars for citrus assistance? Orange You Outraged? $60.4 million tax dollars for salmon fisheries? Something smells fishy. Outraged by Pork?" "Take the survey" 160x600 Wide Skyscraper 23,000 Google
$74 million tax dollars for peanut storage costs? That's Nuts! $100 million tax dollars for citrus assistance? Orange You Outraged? $60.4 million tax dollars for salmon fisheries? Something smells fishy. Outraged by Pork?" "Sign the Petition" 300x250 Medium Rectangle 19,000 n/a
"McCain. Ready to Lead. McCain." "Join John McCain" 160x600 Wide Skyscraper 15,000 n/a
$60.4 million tax dollars for salmon fisheries? Something smells fishy. Outraged by Pork?" "Take the survey" 728x90 Leaderboard 10,000 n/a
"It's time for straight talk on Iraq. McCain." "Support John McCain" 728x90 Leaderboard 4,000 Google
$60.4 million tax dollars for salmon fisheries? Something smells fishy. Outraged by Pork?" "Sign the Petition" 728x90 Leaderboard 4,000 n/a
"One Tough Guy. One Great Leader. McCain" "Join John McCain" 160x600 Wide Skyscraper 3,000 Google
"McCain [Repeated]. Ready to Lead." "Join John McCain" 160x600 Wide Skyscraper 3,000 Google
Source: Nielsen/NetRatings AdRelevance, 2007

* UPDATE:In November 2007, Nielsen Online AdRelevance, formerly Nielsen/NetRatings AdRelevance, provided ClickZ News with revised data on political advertisers for the months of April through September 2007. Although the measurement firm originally reported John McCain 2008 was the only presidential candidate campaign running display ads in August, the campaigns for Republican hopeful Mitt Romney and Democratic Senator Barack Obama also ran display ads in August.

Romney for President ran more than 46 million ad impressions, primarily featuring the message, "Mitt Romney for President, Join Team Mitt." As in earlier months, the campaign also ran video-enabled display ads, according to AdRelevance.

Considering Romney's conservative Republican stance on issues such as gay marriage, Romney's campaign ran ads on unexpected sites such as Gay.com, PlanetOut and Advocate.com.

McCain's and Romney's campaigns both ran display ads on local content sites. Romney ads were seen on MySanAntonio.com, Raleigh Durham's WRAL.com Phoenix's AZfamily.com and WWLTV.com of New Orleans. McCain ads were caught on DesMoinesRegister.com, and South Carolina's TheState.com, targeting early caucus and primary voters. McCain's campaign also ran about 100,000 more ads in August than originally reported by AdRelevance.

While McCain's and Romney's ads featured issue-related messages, the Obama for America campaign shunned the issues, aiming to build local grassroots support through ads promoting in-person events. The majority of the 5.2 million ad impressions for the campaign ran on MSN. More than 3 million ads for the candidate urged users to "Sign Up for Invitations to Campaign Events," prompting them to join other campaign supporters.

August 2007 Ads by
Obama for America
Ad Copy Call to Action Ad Sizes Number of Impressions
"Sign Up for Invitations to Campaign Events" "Join Us" 160x600 Wide Skyscraper 1,607,000
"Get to Know Barack Obama. Sign Up for Invitations to Campaign Events" "Join Us" 728x90 Leaderboard 1,555,000
"Get to Know Barack Obama. Attend Local Campaign Events" "Join Us" 300x250 Medium Rectangle 702,000
"Attend Local Campaign Events. Show Your Support." "Join Us" 300x250 Medium Rectangle 647,000
n/a "Join Us" 180x150 Rectangle, 300x250 Medium Rectangle 636,000
"Meet Barack Obama. Sign Up for Invitations to Campaign Events" "Join Us" non-standard size, 160x600 Wide Skyscraper, 120x600 Skyscraper 53,000
"Help Elect Barack Obama President of the United States. Contribute to Real Hope." "Join Us" 728x90 Leaderboard, 120x600 Skyscraper 24,000
"Meet Barack Obama" "Join Us" 728x90 Leaderboard 9,000
Source: Nielsen Online, AdRelevance, 2007

August 2007 Ads by
Romney For President
Ad Copy Call to Action Ad Sizes Number of Impressions
"Mitt Romney for President" "Join Team Mitt!" 728x90 Leaderboard, 160x600 Wide Skyscraper, 120x600 Skyscraper, 468x60 Full Banner 300x250 Medium Rectangle 44,508,000
"Mitt Romney. Strong. New. Leadership." "Roll over to learn more & get involved. Video/Agenda" 728x90 Leaderboard, 300x250 Medium Rectangle, 160x600 Wide Skyscraper 1,219,000
"Help Governor Romney Build a New American Dream. Strong. New. Leadership." "Join Team Mitt." 300x250 Medium Rectangle, 728x90 Leaderboard 104,000
Source: Nielsen Online, AdRelevance, 2007

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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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