Last week, conservative candidate Carl Paladino came from behind to win the Republican nomination for New York Governor, shocking many voters and political observers. Another surprise: Although Paladino and his opponent - establishment candidate Rick Lazio - spent millions on their campaigns, each spent only around 1 percent of their budgets on online advertising.
The lion's share of Paladino's paltry Web ad spending went to Facebook. The campaign spent just over $19,000 on Facebook advertising between April and mid-August, according to New York State Board of Elections data. One ad that ran in August, for example, did not mention Paladino’s name, and suggested, “The planned NYC mega-mosque at Ground Zero insults all Americans.”
An additional $2,500 was spent on ads purchased direct from TroyRecord.com and Albany's TimesUnion.com, according to Tim Suereth of Strategic Campaign Concepts, a firm handling online ads for the Paladino camp.
That adds up to around $21,500 - just a fraction of the $2.47 million the Paladino for the People campaign spent during the spring and summer months leading up to the September 14 primary election. Campaign reports on spending in the final few weeks of the primary season are not available yet.
Despite the fact that Lazio's campaign displayed an early interest in advertising online and even asked voters to help create their own Web ads, Lazio 2010 spent little more on digital advertising than Paladino. Of the $80,000 paid to digital marketing firm Targeted Victory, less than 40 percent - around $30,000 or less - went toward online ad placements, according to a source familiar with the campaign. The remainder of the money paid to Targeted Victory was spent on things like e-mail marketing, website development, and text messages.
Lazio - the party-backed choice during the primary - spent nearly $3 million through August in total, according to ClickZ's analysis of the state's election board data.
Many campaigns on the left and right in the two years since the 2008 presidential election have come to realize the importance of digital channels. That acknowledgement has resulted in an explosion in usage of inexpensive social media channels, and for some, increased attention to e-mail and website development.
Online political ad sellers and consultants hoped that recognition also would translate into more ad dollars moving online, and surely some campaigns are allocating bigger chunks of their budgets to Web ads this election cycle. However, the fact that these two campaigns spent just 1 percent of their budgets on digital ad buys indicates that even relatively large statewide campaigns are not all sold on the idea of moving their TV budgets online.
The New York race still could heat up when it comes to online ad spending. New York Attorney General and Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo's campaign ran online ads during the primary season, according to analysis of the state's election board data.
Also, Paladino's campaign is already running general election ads online, and appears poised to do more. "We are testing a few cutting-edge targeting techniques that we're very excited about. It could really bloody the Cuomo campaign if these new techniques work as planned," Suereth told ClickZ News. "There have been over 70 separate creatives that have been developed so far, but we're just getting started."
The Paladino camp launched an online display ad this week promising to "Cut your NY taxes by 10%," and linking to a page featuring a tax-themed video and a suggestion that a $25 donation will "save 10% on your New York State taxes next year!"
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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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