Buying web ads direct is still key on Capitol Hill.
Data-driven targeting, DSPs and ad exchanges seem to dominate today's display ad market, but when it comes to reaching key policymakers, some advertisers still see value in buying direct. GO60mpg, an initiative promoting a 60 miles per gallon standard for vehicles, has done just that. However, when it comes to reaching consumers, a related online-only campaign will run through a network buy.
Last week, beltway publications The Hill, Politico, and National Journal were the beneficiaries of ad dollars for the first leg of the online-heavy campaign. The ads ran from Monday through Thursday, the same day President Obama announced new fuel efficiency labels for vehicles.
"We're looking for American policy leaders," said Francesca Koe, director of special projects at the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the groups participating in the coalition of environmental organizations behind the Go60 effort. The goal is to raise awareness among Environmental Protection Agency staff and transportation-related congressional committee members and show support for higher fuel efficiency standards. Other groups involved include Environment America, National Wildlife Federation, Safe Climate Campaign, Sierra Club, and Union of Concerned Scientists.
"Because we are very specific in the objective in terms of policy, we're starting with a very Hill oriented buy," said Koe, the in-house media buyer for NRDC.
Go60 ads also blanketed Politico Wednesday through a site takeover. The coalition hoped the ad message - “Go60 if you believe in high standards” - would resonate since Americans were gearing up for Memorial Day weekend road trips.
The initial Hill-aimed ads feature a man and woman dressed in smart '50s era garb anachronistically perched alongside hybrid cars rather than gas guzzling sedans. The idea, said Koe, plays off the "esoteric aesthetic from the '50s, when America was known for producing great cars. We need to apply that can-do attitude with advanced technology that exists." Los Angeles agency The Compound helped develop the ad creative, which also ran in the print versions of the publications.
"Capitol Hill publications provide almost 100 percent penetration of Washington, D.C. influentials and decision makers across all branches of government, and the line between advertising and content is blurred in the minds of the targeted audience," said Michael Bassik, managing director and U.S. digital practice chair at Burson-Marsteller. Bassik said campaign analytics often show readers of such publications consider ad content as relevant as editorial content.
"The combination of endemic political content adjacent to endemic political advertising provides an exponential benefit to the advertiser and appears to be appreciated by the audience," he added.
Another iteration of the campaign set to run before the July Fourth weekend will also run in beltway publications and employ the same auto heritage theme, said Koe.
Including the July effort, the coalition will spend about 60 percent of its budget on the Web ads. There are still a lot of people in Washington, D.C. who respond to print ads, said Koe, adding, "Depending on the response we get we will shift our approach." The group may decide to increase the digital spend because, "People are so much more active online and [with] mobile."
While the policymaker-aimed effort is focused on just a handful of niche publications, NRDC is planning its own separate consumer-aimed complement to the Go60 campaign which taps into concerns about high prices at the pump. NRDC will target standard display ads through Google's network to articles about gas prices and hybrid and electric cars, according to Koe. Ads will also run on select news, political and environmental sites including CBSNews.com, SFGate.com, DailyKos, RawStory, and Grist.
Those ads ask "How much would you save if your car went 60 MPG?" and directs people to a calculator that bases the answer on gas price, miles per gallon, and the number of miles driven per year. The page allows for easy sharing of the savings result on Facebook and Twitter, and compels people to send a form message to members of the EPA and Obama administration in support of “strong, 60 mpg vehicle standards.”
Taking different approaches to buying and targeting when it comes to consumer-aimed campaigns as opposed to beltway-aimed campaigns is common, said Bassik. "On Capitol Hill your goal is education and persuasion. Among consumers, your goal is to acquire emails and get them to take action on your behalf."
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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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