Web Ads from Left and Right Advocacy Groups Signal More to Come

  |  April 24, 2008   |  Comments

Recent online ad efforts by liberal group MoveOn.org and conservative nonprofit Freedom's Watch imply more advocacy Web spending this election.

ClickZ_Campaign08_katefinal.jpgIn February left-leaning advocacy group MoveOn.org Political Action endorsed Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. Now the organization is soliciting votes for television ad submissions in support of the candidate via a new Web ad effort. MoveOn is one of what could be many advocacy groups and 527 organizations, including conservative nonprofit Freedom's Watch, that can be expected to spend on online ads before November.

In support of its Obama in 30 Seconds campaign, MoveOn launched a new set of Web ads Monday on a variety of liberal blogs and YouTube. The group has spent about $30,000 on video, standard display and other blog ad units over the past few weeks in conjunction with its latest TV ad contest.

"Decide which Obama ad we air on national TV? Yes. You. Can," reads the ad, referencing the message from a popular celebrity-laden Web video promoting Obama entitled, "Yes You Can." The ads prompt users to vote for their favorite of 1,100 :30 television spots submitted for the contest.

"We asked for positive, persuasive Obama ads, and MoveOn members across the nation sent in more than 1,000 creative and amazing videos! Can you help us pick a winner? We'll air it on national TV! Just click here," read a series of ads running on left-wing blogs in the Blogads network. The ads link to the Obama in 30 Seconds site, where people can view and vote on videos, and distribute them on their own sites. The Web ads will run through March 27 and TV spot finalists will be announced April 29.

"The action we're asking people to take is quite addictive; it's not a very high bar ask," suggested Daniel Mintz, MoveOn's head of research and development.

moveon_obama_30seconds.jpgDespite the action-oriented goal of attracting video votes, the group bought the ads on a CPM and flat-fee basis. All together, about 1.5 million standard display ad impressions were purchased for this week's campaign and the lengthier pre-voting ad run. Direct buys were made on YouTube as well as more prominent liberal political blogs including Crooks and Liars and Talking Points Memo. Similar ads seen on Blogads network sites such as Open Left were purchased for varying flat weekly fees.

The organization has done cost-per-action advertising on Facebook, according to Mintz, who said, "We're definitely looking more into display ads and cost per acquisition advertising."

In conjunction with its earlier push for video submissions, MoveOn bought display and video ads on YouTube, targeting viewers of videos in the News and Politics and Film and Animation categories, as well as people uploading video themselves.

"We were looking for the very small market of people who make ads," said Mintz.

freedomswatchpetraeus.jpgWhile MoveOn promoted its TV spot contest last month, a conservative non-profit poised to spend big this election also ran a series of online display ads. Before Congressional hearings on the Iraq war earlier this month, the face of General David Petraeus, U.S. Commander in Iraq, appeared in ads on news sites including Politico.com, Drudge Report and RealClearPolitics. The ads quoted Newsweek and National Review, touting the general as "Man of the Year," and "Iraq's Repairman." Urging users to "Support General Petraeus," they linked to a YouTube video with the same message.

Though the group's VP for Communications Ed Patru acknowledged "Web ads can be a very effective way to reach an enormous number of readers for a fraction of what traditional advertising costs," Freedom's Watch spent far less on its recent ad efforts than it did on a similar Web and TV campaign in August 2007. "We spent $15M on TV" at that time, Patru told ClickZ News.

MoveOn's Obama television ad contest mimics one conducted during the 2004 elections, similarly titled, "Bush in 30 Seconds." That campaign also used the Web to create and fund television ads. Although Mintz suggested Web ads make sense as a promotional vehicle, considering that's where the group's potential supporters are, TV is still important. "Different media serve different purposes," he said, noting online advertising "may not always be the best use of resources."

Despite the great disparity between potential online and TV spending by political advertisers including the two organizations, both MoveOn and Freedom's Watch have hinted at more online ads before the 44th president is chosen. "You'll likely see lots of new and hopefully interesting things from us in the online advertising world this year," said Mintz.

MoveOn ad image courtesy of online ad tracking firm The Media Trust Company.


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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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