As presidential campaigns gear up for decisive primary battles in Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina, and Florida, only a handful appear to be buying search ads targeted to state-specific keywords. In fact, it seems Obama for America is the lone Democratic campaign looking to reach potential Nevada caucus voters through search advertising.
On the Republican side, prolific search advertiser John McCain 2008 remains dominant, though the Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani campaigns are also doing some spending on state primary search efforts. It's important to note some search ads may not have appeared in results in searches conducted Friday by ClickZ if the ads were specifically geo-targeted to people living in particular states or ZIP codes.
The Romney and McCain campaigns both ran ads related to tomorrow's Michigan primary on Google and Yahoo. McCain's campaign touted the Senator's 2000 Michigan Republican primary win and an endorsement by The Detroit News in ads placed on the search sites. Targeting ads to keyword phrases including "Michigan primary," "2008 primary Michigan" and "Republican primary Michigan," the campaign employed state-specific ad copy like "McCain Won Michigan in 2000 with Your Help, He Can Again," and "Detroit News Votes John McCain for President."
The ads linked to a relevant landing page featuring the Detroit News article announcing the paper's endorsement. A prominent image along the side of the page linked to the contribution page.
Romney's campaign, which has polled strongly in Michigan, targeted Google AdWords ads to "Republican primary Michigan," and bought ads appearing on Yahoo search results for "Michigan primary election." Unlike McCain's campaign, however, the ad copy was more generalized, and included copy seen in online display advertising placed by the campaign. The ads pushed users to a volunteer sign-up page. One read, "Mitt Romney for President. Sign Up and Join Team Mitt. Strong. New. Leadership."
McCain was the only candidate whose campaign ran ads targeted to South Carolina-related searches conducted by ClickZ. Ads declaring, "South Carolina Learn More About John McCain for President," showed up in results for "South Carolina election," "South Carolina Republican" and "South Carolina Republican primary." The ads led users to a page featuring a video ad, and links to information on locating a primary polling place and how to vote absentee.
Not surprising to election watchers, ads for Rudy Giuliani appeared in Florida primary related search results; the former New York City mayor's campaign has focused much attention on that state during the primary season. Rudy for President ads leading users to a contribution page appeared in Yahoo search results for "Florida primary" and "Florida primary 2008."
On Google, ads for John McCain 2008 showed up on searches for "2008 primary Florida," while ads for Barack Obama appeared in results for "Florida Democrat primary." All three Florida advertisers stuck with relatively generic ad copy. Giuliani's spoke of "Strong Leadership. Proven Results." McCain's said, "Florida Learn More About John McCain for President," and Obama's suggested that supporters "Sign-up now for opportunities to volunteer and attend campaign events."
When it comes to search ads, Republicans -- even McCain's campaign -- seem to be neglecting Nevada's upcoming caucuses in the same way they've ignored the state while campaigning in-person. But the state could make a difference for Democrats, according to pundits. Indeed, after scoring an endorsement by the casino state's large Culinary Workers Union, Obama is using search ads to help potential voters get to the polls.
Searches for "Nevada caucuses" and "Nevada primary" on Google turned up ads leading to practical information for Nevada caucus goers. "Find out where to caucus for Barack Obama on Saturday, Jan. 19," read one ad. The ads linked to a form to submit address information for finding caucus locations on the official Obama for America "Nevada Headquarters" site.
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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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