Google is poised to score more political advertiser clients than ever during this year's midterm election season. Yet, while the company was the clear winner of online ad dollars in the '08 election, it has made significant changes to its political sales operation. The firm has added a former political campaign manager to its sales team, and moved its political sales operations away from Washington, D.C. - home to many political consultants - to Michigan. And its once-top political sales guy? He's now focused on advertising industry outreach.
It's been just about a year since Google changed its political ad sales operation, transitioning its post-2008 presidential election client portfolio from D.C. to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where it houses its online sales teams catering to local and classifieds-type verticals like education, real estate - and, yes - political campaigns.
The company moved its political business to Ann Arbor last April, in part because it needed the infrastructure set up there to handle existing political advertisers.
"One of the reasons our team is in a big sales office is because we have the resources there," explained the newest addition to Google's political advertiser-facing team, Andrew Roos, whose title is account executive, AdWords, Google elections and issue advocacy. Roos joined Google this February, after serving as campaign manager for candidates including Delaware Governor Jack Markell; he works in the Michigan office.
"I'll go to D.C. periodically, just because that's where the campaign managers are," said Roos. While in the capital, he is bound to see another ex-political campaign staffer and Google's former manager for elections and issue advocacy, Peter Greenberger. After the 2008 presidential elections, a particularly busy time for Google political ad sales, Greenberger took on a new role as head of industry relations, just about a year ago.
"I thought it was an opportunity to grow... an opportunity for me to take on a role that was important for the company," he said. "We thought it was an area where we wanted to improve. As we've grown I think it's become more important to us to strengthen our relationships within the industry."
Though Greenberger still spends "20 percent" of his time helping guide Google's political sales, he's now largely focused on ensuring a strong Google presence at ad industry events, and meeting with trade associations like the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Association of National Advertisers, and people he calls influential industry leaders. He has two others based in New York on his team.
What Greenberger once did for Google, Roos - along with those in Google's elections and issue advocacy sales team - now do. "I want to bring some campaign terminology to explain the value AdWords has," said Roos.
"What we've seen in 2009 and 2010 - the [Massachusetts] special election already - people have been adopting AdWords campaigns at a much higher rate than I think we've seen in the past," said Charles Scrase, Google's manager of online sales and operations.
Scrase, Roos, and Chris Talbot, an account executive handling Google's direct elections and issue advocacy sales, were all present at the annual American Association of Political Consultants held near Phoenix last week. "We try to operate at scale," said Scrase. "When we try to interact with lots of customers, we try to do that at events or at conferences." Google also sponsored a conference session at the AAPC conference about online advertising, moderated by this reporter.
The company has six people working on its online sales team serving existing political clients, and four direct sales execs dedicated to bringing in new political and advocacy clients. "That's a big increase from where we were before, just because the number of people that are interested in working with us has grown a lot," Scrase said, adding that there are no plans to hire more political ad sales staff at the moment.
Google also recently held separate events in its D.C. office for Republicans and Democrats featuring panel discussions including digital political consultants. "The idea here is to start discussions around this to make us all better at what we're doing," said Scrase.
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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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