As Republican presidential candidates duke it out for most-conservative status, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson have launched online ad campaigns targeting right-leaning audiences. Romney for President began running video overlay ads targeted contextually using ScanScout's content-scanning technology on Thursday. On the same day, Fred '08 launched ads attacking Romney's conservative credentials on right-wing blogs.
The efforts came just in time for Sunday's FOX News debate among GOP presidential hopefuls and a Values Voter Summit hosted Sunday in Washington, D.C. by pro-marriage and family group Family Research Council.
In what appears to be the first use of video overlay advertising by a presidential campaign, the Romney ads repurpose TV spots currently on the air in Iowa. The "Our Home" ad takes a reality TV style approach, featuring casual footage of the former Massachusetts Governor bouncing grandkids on his knee, and family film archives of his wife, Ann, with their kids.
"Mitt says there's no work more important than what goes on inside the four walls of the American home, and that's the way it was in our home," says Mrs. Romney at the end of the ad.
Romney for President is employing ScanScout's video platform to target ads contextually based on socially-conservative and family related keywords found in the audio component of Web video. Presented as an overlay unit below video content, the user-initiated ads are played while video content is paused. The spots link to the "Join Team Mitt" registration page on MittRomney.com. The campaign expects to include a registration form within the ad itself sometime soon, once technical and data security issues are worked out, according to Romney for President Director of Online Communications Stephen Smith.
"We could just do a network buy...but that could be less effective in getting through," said Smith. Instead, the campaign is targeting the ads in video content involving issues people concerned about "the health of the American family" might watch, he continued. Though the campaign is running plenty of television spots, said Smith, "The fact that you can target it that precisely is certainly a major advantage."
The month-long ScanScout buy is running nationally, "though we're certainly looking into doing regional or state-specific buys in the future," added Smith. Ads are running on user-generated video sites such as Blip.tv and professionally-produced video on news sites, he said. The campaign has been testing video advertising through ScanScout since June, but this marks the first far-reaching buy.
Smith wouldn't reveal how much of the campaign's ad budget is allocated to the Web, but he did characterize it as a "small but growing" portion. According to Nielsen/NetRatings AdRelevance, Romney for President made a big online ad push in September, with more than 22 million display ad impressions. The campaign experimented with standard display formats and expandable PointRoll units in the spring, and took a Web advertising break in the summer, according to AdRelevance tracking.
Romney's display units have been found on a wide variety of sites such as conservative news site Newsmax, iWon, FoxNews.com and on New York Times Business, Sports and International site sections. Many of the ads are focused on building grassroots support in early primary states, and helping establish Romney's platform on popular conservative issues like government spending and border security.
Fred Thompson's campaign is urging blog readers to "support the real conservative," in new ads launched last week on right-wing Blogads network blogs such as Power Line, Right Wing News, Right Thoughts, Biblical Womanhood and Hugh Hewitt's blog on Townhall.com. The ad takes direct aim at Romney and another Republican presidential primary candidate, ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; it suggests both are feigning conservative values to garner support from important far-right Republican primary voters.
"This is not a time for philosophical flexibility, it is a time to stand up for what we believe in," note the animated display ads, which link to the Fred08.com campaign contribution page.
The Romney campaign also ran ads in the Blogads network in January, according to Smith, who said he keeps in close contact with bloggers, in part to respond to attacks like the one in the Thompson ad. "I speak to a lot of those conservative bloggers," said Smith. "We're continually reaching out and speaking with them and giving them information."
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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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