Advocacy Groups Use Conventions to Push Issues, Candidates Online

ClickZ_Campaign08_katefinal.jpgJust about every advocacy group around is using the national party conventions to garner attention for their messages, and some are combining Web ads to facilitate the process.

EMILY’s List not only banked on voter interest during this week’s Democratic National Convention, but pinpointed it to the time a particular candidate or official took the podium. The group, which aims to get pro-choice Democratic women elected to office, may not have succeeded in getting out the primary vote for Hillary Clinton, but the organization has a number of women candidates who could win in November on its roster.

Jeanne Shaheen is one. Anticipating voter interest in the Senate candidate from New Hampshire while she spoke Wednesday at the event, EMILY’s List ran Google AdWords ads targeted to searches for her name just before, during and just after her speech. The group also bid on the name of Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill during her speech Monday; McCaskill is one of the organization’s chosen elected officials.

For Shaheen, the goal is to drum up interest and donations for the candidate. The ads ran during “a half day window,” said Emily Lockwood, Internet director at EMILY’s List. “The reason we ramped this up during the convention is because these people are getting national coverage.”

In any kind of political search ad campaign, suggested Mike Turk, a technology consultant for Republican candidates, buying a candidate’s name should be the first step. “The first thing I would do is buy my candidate’s name,” he told ClickZ News. Even when an official campaign site is well optimized and appears near or at the top of search results, he continued, “There’s a certain degree of comfort people have clicking on the sponsored link.”

The effort is a timely one, though it is part of the organization’s broader push to promote a list of 26 women currently running for U.S. congressional and gubernatorial offices. Another text ad campaign planned for this week was aimed at building awareness of the group’s Dem convention event, and driving traffic to footage of convention speeches by Michelle Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The group targeted ads to searches on their names, as well as other keywords like “women” and “unity.”

“EMILY’s List at the DNC, Watch Nancy Pelosi, Michelle Obama & Hillary Clinton at EMILY’s List!” declares the ad. The EMILY acronym stands for “Early Money Is Like Yeast,” because, according to the group’s Web site, “it helps the dough rise.”

Candidate campaigns and issue groups “can take advantage of spikes in online traffic, as a result of the conventions or primetime coverage, to capture voter interest and connect with people on issues they care about,” suggested Google manager for elections and issue advocacy Peter Greenberger.

Biotechnology trade association BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization) has also used the Democratic convention to get in front of the right people. The group, which represents 1,200 biotech firms in fields such as healthcare and alternative energy, is targeting display ads to Web pages featuring content about topics including “biotechnology” and “healthcare.” Those ads are also targeted geographically to people in Denver, Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis/St. Paul, home of next week’s Republican National Convention.

While convention watchers across the country may also be interested in BIO, the group chose specifically to reach political thought leaders through its convention-oriented effort. “We wanted to focus on those political leaders and political activists who are so actively engaged,” said BIO VP of Communications Jeff Joseph.

“Energy Crisis. Debilitating Diseases. Environmental Sustainability. We’re working on answers. For all of us. Let’s work together,” read the ads, which link to the group’s site. The Dem convention’s channel on Google-owned YouTube also features the ads.

“Really what we’re doing here is trying to begin this campaign, and raise awareness about the promise and potential of our industry,” Joseph said. “We’re really more concerned about just the buzz.”

The group is also keeping track of relevant issues discussed during the convention on the IAmBiotech site. In a blog post there entitled, “Denver, Democrats, Science and Biotechnology,” a dispatch from the convention records several allusions to biofuel made by various speakers — and in the case of Coors Brewing Company — corporations. According to the post, the Rocky Mountain brew maker promoted beer-based biofuel at the Democratic bash.

The organization’s ads started late last week and will run until after the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities next week. EMILY’s List is also considering an online ad effort correlated with the GOP get-together.

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