Obama Battled for Early Votes as McCain Blitzed Clinton in February

  |  March 17, 2008   |  Comments

Obama placed millions of Get Out the Vote ads before the Lone Star primary while McCain took advantage of his lone Republican candidate status with Get Hillary ads.

ClickZ_Campaign08_katefinal.jpgIn February, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama battled for Texas voters in millions of get out the vote ads leading up to the Lone Star primary and caucuses. Meanwhile, John McCain took advantage of his lone Republican candidate status with a "Get Hillary" Web ad campaign.

The week before the March 4 primaries in Texas and Ohio, Senator Obama launched locally-targeted, expandable online video ads on the homepages of a variety of newspaper and TV station sites based in those states. To complement that eye-catching effort, the campaign aimed millions of standard display units at Texas voters in February, according to information gathered by Nielsen Online AdRelevance.

In some ads, the Obama campaign logo followed along as the user's cursor traveled over a cartoonish image of the state of Texas. "Vote Now for Barack Obama. Find Your Early Vote Location," demanded the ad. Like the homepage video units, those pushed users to a Web form to locate early voting places.

Obama for America also ran a variety of ads it has placed throughout the never-ending primary season, enticing voters to help elect the candidate to the presidency by joining his campaign. AdRelevance caught ads in February for the Illinois Senator on local sites including Austin's Statesman.com and Dayton Daily News, and ToledoBlade.com, though most ads ran on sites like Politico, The Huffington Post, and Merriam-Webster Online. Those dictionary site ads were most likely placed via ad networks and targeted geographically, demographically or according to user behavior.

As Obama focused on driving voters to the polls and collecting names via poll location finding forms, McCain took aim at possible general election rival Hillary Clinton. Hundreds of thousands of ads featured the former first lady's head bouncing inside a psychic's crystal ball. "Is This The Future You Want?" the ads asked forebodingly. "Make Sure It Doesn't Happen!" they continued.

Like those spots, ads intended to malign Clinton for her proposal to fund a museum commemorating the legendary Woodstock concert also lacked any prominent mention of McCain. "1 million for a Woodstock Museum? Not so groovy man," admonished the ads, which presented a sunflower-adorned Clinton flashing the peace sign. A tiny "Paid for by John McCain" was the only indication of the candidate's association with the ad.

Other ads from the McCain camp showed a twirling newspaper that blared the headline, "McCain Beats Clinton. Read All About It." The Arizona Senator's campaign targeted Obama in some ads; those featured close-ups of Clinton and Obama, inquiring, "Who do you trust to Protect America?"

Although McCain's campaign continued running ad creative focused on the candidate's leadership qualities and military prowess, AdRelevance impression data show the Clinton attack ads made up a much larger portion of McCain display ads than in previous months.

Those ads were targeted to an audience likely to be receptive of Clinton-bashing messages, too. Because the candidate no longer had to battle Republican holdouts Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee in state primaries, John McCain 2008 didn't need to buy ads on local sites as much as in more contentious months. Instead, AdRelevance found many of the candidate's ads on conservative sites like Washington Times, Newsmax, National Review, Town Hall, and sites associated with conservative commentators including Lucianne Goldberg's Lucianne.com and David Horowitz's FrontPage Magazine.

It's no wonder many of those ads were focused less on McCain and more on Clinton, a nemesis of many conservatives and Republicans. While McCain struggles to win over conservatives unhappy with his stances on issues such as immigration and campaign finance reform, he may be better off getting their attention by threatening another Clinton presidency.

The McCain camp also appears to have tightened its display ad belt in recent months. In February, only around 2 million display ads for the candidate appeared online, according to AdRelevance. In contrast, Obama for America ran around 40 million. It's important to note these numbers are estimates.

AdRelevance found a negligible number of ads placed on iVillage to promote a Clinton TV event on the Hallmark Channel last month. Those linked to a page where people could submit questions for the New York Senator to answer during the live "National Town Hall" event. In addition to that minimal buy, online ad tracker The Media Trust Company did stumble upon some fundraising ads placed by the Clinton camp on Eau Claire-based LeaderTelegram.com in mid February, before the Wisconsin primary.

A small number of ad impressions for former Republican candidate Mitt Romney were also picked up by AdRelevance in February, most likely before he ended his campaign early that month. Though the Romney camp ran several innovative Web ads during the primary season, these were simple banners bearing the message, "Mitt Romney. True Strength for America's Future."

clinton_townhall2.08ad.jpg

View ad as seen on iVillage.

Ad provided by The Media Trust Company.

Sample of February 2008 Ads by
Hillary Clinton for President
Ad Copy Call to Action Ad Sizes Estimated Number of Impressions
"Voice Across America. National Town Hall With Hillary Clinton. Tonight, 9:00PM EST. Watch Live on Hallmark Channel Or At HillaryClinton.com." "Ask Your Question" 300x250 Medium Rectangle 6,000
Source: Nielsen Online, AdRelevance, 2008

Ads provided by The Media Trust Company.
Refresh page to view the ads in full animation.

February 2008 Ads by
John McCain 2008
Ad Copy Call to Action Ad Sizes Estimated Number of Impressions
"One man has the experience One man has the courage One man has our trust John McCain for President." "Join Our Team" 160x600 Wide Skyscraper, 728x90 Leaderboard, 300x250 Medium Rectangle over 750,000
"Is This The Future You Want? Make Sure It Doesn't Happen!" "Click Here" 300x250 Medium Rectangle, 728x90 Leaderboard, 160x600 Wide Skyscraper over 650,000
"McCain Beats Clinton. Read All About It" "Click Here" 728x90 Leaderboard, 160x600 Wide Skyscraper, 300x250 Medium Rectangle, 336x280 Large Rectangle over 300,000
"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 200,000
"1 million for a Woodstock Museum? not so groovy man" "Watch Video" 160x600 Wide Skyscraper, 728x90 Leaderboard over 100,000
"Who do you trust to protect America? John McCain for President" "Join the Team" 300x250 Medium Rectangle 100,000
Source: Nielsen Online, AdRelevance, 2008

Ad provided by The Media Trust Company.
Refresh page to view the ad in full animation.

Sample of February 2008 Ads by
Obama for America
Ad Copy Call to Action Ad Sizes Estimated Number of Impressions
"Change We Can Believe In. Help Elect Barack Obama President of the United States. Visit the official campaign website" "Join Us" 300x250 Medium Rectangle, 728x90 Leaderboard over 15 million
"Barack Obama for President. Visit the Official Campaign Website." "Join Us" 728x90 Leaderboard over 5 million
"Help Elect Barack Obama President of the United States. Visit the official campaign website" "Join Us" 728x90 Leaderboard over 4.5 million
"Vote Now for Barack Obama. Find Your Early Vote Location." "Texas Early Vote Locations" 300x250 Medium Rectangle, 728x90 Leaderboard, 180x150 Rectangle over 2 million
"Obama '08. Visit the Official Campaign Website." "Join Us" 300x250 Medium Rectangle over 1.5 million
"Meet Barack Obama. Sign Up for Invitations to Campaign Events" "Join Us" 120x600 Skyscraper, 160x600 Wide Skyscraper over 100,000
"Change We Can Believe In. Vote Now for Barack Obama. Have you tried the ease and convenience of early voting?" "Find Your Early Vote Location. Go [BarackObama.com /Texas]" 160x600 Wide Skyscraper over 5,000
Source: Nielsen Online, AdRelevance, 2008

Sample of February 2008 Ads by
Romney for President
Ad Copy Call to Action Ad Sizes Estimated Number of Impressions
"Mitt Romney. True Strength for America's Future." "www.MittRomney.com" 728x90 Leaderboard 6,000
Source: Nielsen Online, AdRelevance, 2008

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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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