Big Tea Party Backer Takes Conservative Approach to Web Advertising

Anti-tax organization Club for Growth Action is backing several conservative and tea party candidates this election, and around $200,000 of its multi-million dollar budget has gone online. Republican Senate candidates including Nevada’s Sharron Angle, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, and Colorado’s Ken Buck, along with a host of GOP House candidates, have received endorsements and ad backing from the small group’s political action committee.

Club for Growth is taking a particularly bare bones approach to online advertising, running only Google text-based search ads targeted based on candidate names. Despite its simplicity, according to the group, it appears to be raking in some donations. According to David Keating, executive director at Club for Growth, the online ads have brought in around $250,000 in donations.

clubforgrowth-sharronangle-searchWhile many campaigns are able to get a higher ROI for their search ad investments in terms of dollars raised, the organization also aimed to garner signups by new members in the hopes of hitting them up for more cash in the future.

“It’s definitely a positive when you’re looking for new members,” said Keating, explaining that garnering signups by new members is an added benefit of donations derived through the ads.

Keating said all that money is going back into its ad buying budget, the majority of which is headed to TV.

The group’s PAC has been running Google AdWords campaigns since September, spending $200,000 thus far on independent expenditures, he said. Keating called the online spending a “tiny fraction” of the more than $5 million Club for Growth Action has spent on television and elsewhere. The online ad budget amounts to 4 percent of the overall $5 million budget, which actually is more than what many campaigns spend on web ads.

A search for “Pat Toomey” resulted in a Club For Growth ad linking to a donation page which read, “we need your help to raise last-minute dollars to get our targeted advertising on the air in key states.”

Keating said the organization may shut off the Google campaign in the final days before Tuesday’s election. “We monitor it every day. If it starts dying – which I imagine it would pretty soon – we’ll shut it off,” he told ClickZ News Wednesday.

The organization is not unlike many that are still merely dabbling in online advertising, hesitant to do more than use basic online ad formats and tactics for fundraising. Keating suggested Club for Growth may consider deploying some money towards last-minute persuasion campaigns – for instance using video advertising to reinforce television ad messaging.

“It depends what happens tomorrow. We may have more money on our hands that we can’t spend [on television].”

Still, Keating said, “I don’t know if I can win that argument,” suggesting that other decision makers may choose to save the money for important elections in the future.

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