On the heels of big primary wins in Texas and Ohio, Hillary Clinton's campaign is hoping to milk the momentum for all it's worth. Even if it's just five or 50 bucks. The New York Senator's presidential campaign is running Web ads on big news sites urging supporters to "Contribute $50 Now." Meanwhile, recent e-mails sent by the camp are low-balling requests, too, asking people to give a mere $5.
"Help Make History. Support Hillary Clinton Today! Contribute $50 Now," exclaim ads placed on sites including AOL, CNN.com, Newsweek, NYTimes.com, Slate, and WashingtonPost.com. The standard display units launched on March 5 and are set to run till today. The ads are geo-targeted as well as placed contextually.
"Web advertising is proven to be effective for fundraising. It largely depends on how it's targeted and where it's targeted," said Mike Turk, who most recently worked as Internet advisor for Republican Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. It makes sense for campaigns to target ads to geographic areas "where they have more strength or more supporters," he said.
According to information from Email Data Source, e-mails sent last week from Bill Clinton asked, "Can you help put Hillary in the position to win Pennsylvania with your contribution today?" The message touts the claim that over 45,000 people contributed to the campaign after the Ohio and Texas primary wins.
Though the goal was to raise $3 million in 24 hours, the e-mail hits up supporters for just $5."Give Hillary a head start with a $5 contribution today," it suggested.
As Clinton battles to surpass rival Barack Obama in the ever-tightening race for Democratic delegates, her campaign needs all the cash it can grab. This makes the small donation approach that much more curious, particularly when considering the average online donation has been reported to be anywhere from $100 to $125.
"I would suspect it could actually end up hurting you," said Turk of the limited donation request. He compared the Clinton Web ad approach to the one typically taken in direct mail. "Always since the dawn of time they say, 'Give what you can,' " he said, noting most direct mail pieces from campaigns and nonprofits list a series of suggested amounts, $25, $50, $75, and so on.
One possible reason for the small donation tactic is the fact that donors of lower amounts can be tapped again and again before they've reached the $2,300 threshold for contributions from individuals to candidates in the primary season.
The approach has worked well for Obama. As reported by The New York Times, 90 percent of the $28 million his campaign raised online in January was collected from donations of $100 or less, and 40 percent came from donations of $25 or less.
Mitt Romney's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination took a similar tack in Web ads that suggested supporters "Donate $44 for the Future 44th President."
The Clinton online ad effort bears a striking similarity to one placed by John Kerry's campaign in the 2004 election. Those ads urged people to contribute specific amounts such as $25 or $50. The Kerry ads were tested for performance based on how much money they brought in, and the same likely applies to the Clinton fundraising ads.
According to Turk, such testing might involve adjusting ad messages if people aren't responding to certain ads, and checking conversion rates by measuring "how many people actually complete the contribution."
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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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