The Obama campaign wants supporters to share fiscal policy data online. As President Barack Obama battles for reelection on both social and economic policy fronts, taxes have become the hot topic du jour. Obama's online ad team is backing his tax policy-related stump speeches with Facebook ads encouraging people to compare his tax plan with that of Republican hopeful Mitt Romney, then share the results.
"See how President Obama and Mitt Romney stack up on taxes. Learn more!" declares a Facebook ad that links to a page featuring a tax calculator. "Enter your Annual Income to see the clear choice between President Obama's and Mitt Romney's tax plans," notes the page, which asks, "Who is fighting for middle class tax cuts?"
The form quickly generates a response, showing "Tax savings under Obama" in 2013, compared to the "Tax increase under Romney." However, when a relatively high household income of $500,000 is entered into the calculator, it spits out a decrease in taxes under Romney, and uses some of the same language to explain the comparison as for lower incomes.
"Compared to President Obama's plan, average families - those earning between $100,000 and $199,999 - would face a tax increase under Romney," states one result. Another also refers to a much higher income household as an "average" family: "Compared to President Obama's plan, average families like yours - those earning between $500,000 and $999,999 - would receive a tax cut under Romney."
The ad effort is continuing an Obama online ad strategy tying display advertising to Facebook and Twitter shares in the hopes of amplifying campaign messages and generating signups from supporters it hopes will volunteer and donate. The Facebook ad appears to be targeted to voters in Florida though it's not clear whether targeting is based on other criteria such as personal interests, political leanings, or gender. People outside Florida also may have seen the Facebook ad.
While some of Romney's digital ad efforts have featured issue-based messaging, they seem more geared towards generating signups and online donations, often through hawking bumper stickers or campaign gear, or promoting contests to spend time with the candidate. The Obama campaign has its share of ads pushing contests to meet the President, but overall the ad messaging seems to emphasize issues more so than Romney's. Themes such as women's health, gay rights, and job outsourcing have turned up in Obama's web ads.
It's not the first time the Obama camp has used digital display ads to disseminate fiscal policy information. In June, ads called Romney's claims that Obama was on a spending binge "false," and offered data showing spending growth at the federal level has slowed under Obama's administration, compared to previous administrations including those of Republicans Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. The ads prompted people to "share the chart" and featured Twitter and Facebook buttons.
The President recently has argued in speeches that Romney's tax cut plan would reduce taxes for the wealthy while increasing them for most taxpayers. Romney's tax returns are also at issue. Democrats have seized on news of Romney's offshore accounts and slammed him for not releasing multiple tax returns. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has gone so far as to suggest that Romney didn't pay taxes for a 10-year stretch.
Both campaigns are using search ads to capture interest in the topic. However, Obama's ads are more closely connected in theme to a tax-related page on his campaign site. A search for "Romney taxes" on Google turns up a Romney campaign ad that reads, "A Fairer, Flatter, and Simpler Tax Code. Donate $5 Now!" and goes to a generic donation page.
In keeping with his issue-based online ad strategy, the Obama ad asks, "Why won't Romney release more tax returns? Get the facts." That ad links to a page asking, "What's Mitt Romney hiding?" The page suggests Romney should reveal more tax returns and information about a Swiss bank account and another in the Cayman Islands.
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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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