Senator Leahy and Others Using New YouTube Ad Offering

  |  July 6, 2009   |  Comments

The Vermont Democrat's BushTruthCommission, the Service Employees International Union, and other political and advocacy groups are early adopters of YouTube's new video overlay ads.

ClickZ News - Politics & AdvocacyPolitical and advocacy groups have clearly caught on to the power of Web video, particularly on YouTube. However, while video is a great medium for eliciting an emotional response from viewers to help promote a candidate or cause, until now YouTube video content alone hasn't allowed organizations to drive people to take actions like donating or signing a petition. A new overlay ad feature introduced recently does, and a handful of political groups and nonprofits, including Senator Patrick Leahy's are already putting it to use.

"Build momentum to establish a Bush-Cheney truth commission -- Sign Now," declares a text ad that pops up 10-seconds into a video clip featuring Vermont Senator and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy. The Call-to-Action overlay unit links to Leahy's, which houses a petition to establish a commission to "investigate abuses by the Bush-Cheney Administration."

The overlay units are free to advertisers using YouTube's cost-per-click video promotions. The keyword-targeted service allows video owners to advertise their clips alongside search results. Though they pay for the performance-based video promotion ads, they don't pay for the overlay units that are intended to link to outside sites.

Video promotion advertisers don't have to run the overlay units, but the fact that they're free and help drive traffic to their own sites means many will. For political and advocacy advertisers, the overlay ads can help push supporters to click-through and donate, sign a petition, or submit their e-mail addresses. According to the BushTruthCommission site, over 117,000 people had signed the virtual petition as of Thursday.

The Leahy campaign is a test partner of the overlay unit, launched to nonprofits in late May. Now it's available to all advertisers. However, Google-owned YouTube is making a special push to nonprofits, charities, advocacy groups and political advertisers.

"They are doing outreach as we speak," said YouTube spokesperson Aaron Zamost, adding that there has been "a lot of interest" from such advertisers in the product.

Nonprofit Charity: Water, an organization distributing clean drinking water to developing nations, used the in-video ads to garner donations in an earlier test. The group brought in $10,000 in one day, according to YouTube.

A YouTube search for "universal healthcare" turns up a promoted video from The Service Employees International Union associated with its tongue-in-cheek healthcare campaign. The effort focuses on a parody anti-healthcare reform organization called Healthy Americans Against Reforming Medicine, or HAARM. The video spoofs the fake advocacy group's lame attempts at protesting against healthcare reform, and at making a Web video.

Like the Leahy clip, the video links out to the campaign site: "Watch more videos and take the healthcare survey! Visit" The effort is part of the Service Employees International Union's "Change That Works" campaign.

The union also ran a targeted Google campaign during the Fourth of July weekend to promote its Common Sense for California initiative. That campaign employed the highly-concentrated ad tactic known as the Google surge or network blast. The tactic enables advertisers to target in specific geographic areas over a short period across Google's content network, the goal being to saturate ad placements served to users in that timeframe and locale.


Kate Kaye

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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