Barack Obama, The Democratic National Committee and "Car Wash Babes"? They may not seem a likely grouping, but yesterday, ads paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Illinois Senator's presidential campaign showed up on an array of local Clear Channel rock radio station Web sites featuring content some would consider inappropriate for a radio station, much less a presidential campaign.
Despite the controversial media buy, the ads suggest the DNC and Obama camps are beginning to create a unified message, aimed at registering voters in swing states.
Macon, Georgia's Q106.fm and Harrisonburg, Virginia's 98rockme.com are among several Clear Channel station sites that, as of yesterday afternoon, were running the new ads. Alongside an image promoting "Celebrity Tramp Stamps" and links to content categorized as "Red Light Girls," "Chicks on Toilets," and "Thong of the Day," ads launched recently ask viewers to "Register To Vote For Barack Obama And Other Candidates For Change." According to the ads, they were "Paid for by the Democratic National Committee and Obama for America and Authorized by Obama for America."
New DNC/Obama Ad Seen on 98rockme.com
The ads were spotted by Web ad tracking service The Media Trust Company on a long list of local radio station and newspaper Web sites based in states -- many of which are considered swing states -- including Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia.
At least a portion of the ads were placed by local media firm Centro, which has scored upwards of $100,000 from the Obama campaign this year to put towards local Web buys. The company places local online advertising for national advertisers.
"The content on these sites is clearly objectionable and the ads should not have been displayed there," Centro CEO Shawn Riegsecker told ClickZ News. "As soon as we were alerted to this issue, we removed the ads immediately. The DNC and Obama for America maintain very high editorial and content standards of where their advertising is displayed and we should not have placed an ad there," he continued. Neither the DNC nor the Obama campaign responded to requests for comment.
Republican Mitt Romney's campaign famously ran thousands of ad impressions on Gay.com and other gay lifestyle sites last year -- sites that weren't exactly in sync with some of the candidate's conservative stances. The campaign's online ad team chalked up the mishap to ad network problems. Indeed, ads placed through ad networks have been known to appear on inappropriate Web sites or pages on occasion.
Ad image provided by The Media Trust Company
However, the DNC campaign ads ended up on the salacious radio station sites as a result of Centro's direct ad buy rather than an ad network blunder. Until they could all be reviewed for content quality, the ads were removed Monday from all the local radio station sites, which included some dedicated to R&B and other music genres in addition to their raunchier rock 'n' roll counterparts.
Ad placement gaffe aside, the ads themselves are novel in that they involved both the national party committee and the candidate campaign itself. This marks the first instance of a disclosure naming both a party and a presidential candidate campaign in a Web ad during the 2008 election season.
That may be the only unique component of the ads, though. They take on imagery that's become synonymous with Obama's graphical Web ads, including a bright blue background and prominent image of the smiling candidate. One ad also features the candidate's logo.
The ad message itself is also closely reminiscent of one in ads run by Republican Senator John McCain's campaign for the past few months. Those ads poke fun at gas station prices that cost an "arm" and a "leg," and urge people to sign a petition to "Support John McCain's Moratorium." McCain is for a gas tax moratorium while Obama is not. The DNC ads ask Web users if they're "Sick of High Gas Prices?" and continues, "Don't Get Mad, Get Registered." Republican Senator Mitch McConnell has also run Web ads with a similar theme.
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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.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT