California Political Campaign Sees Lift by Combining TV, Web Ads

Democrat Chris Kelly is running for California Attorney General, but the former Facebook privacy officer’s campaign could do more than simply promote the candidate. It might also help promote the use of online ads by other political campaigns. Kelly for Attorney General 2010 allowed researchers to conduct and observe specific ad efforts to determine impact on key metrics such as favorability and likelihood to vote for Kelly, and the campaign has allowed the results to be made public.

Many political media consultants believe online ads are good for one thing, if for anything at all: fundraising. Yet, although several campaigns have experimented with online display and video ads for persuasion, selling consultants on the notion that any form of digital ad can be used to sway voters has historically been tough. Political campaigns are accustomed to using TV ads to move poll numbers. They want to connect ads to metrics such as ad recall, favorability, and vote share. So, the people behind the study – a combined effort of public affairs and research firm Global Strategy Group, media consulting and services company Centro, and Google – wanted to show that online ads run in conjunction with television ads boost those numbers more than TV ads alone.


They found just that. Likely Democratic primary voters exposed to both TV and online ads in one California media market viewed Kelly more favorably than those exposed to television ads only in a different California market. Compared to a 19 percent lift from TV ads alone, TV and Web ads combined provided a 23 percent lift, according to the study.

“The point of the study is that you can’t just use one medium, and that’s a powerful message to send to [political] consultants,” said Chris Nolan, co-founder of San Francisco-based, a political content syndicator that also provides online media services to political campaigns.

The study also measured favorability among frequent Internet users, finding that TV and Web advertising together drove a 27 percent lift in favorability, compared to 21 percent for television ads alone. “The increase in Chris Kelly’s favorable ratings was driven largely by frequent Internet users, who were more likely to be exposed to the online advertising campaign,” stated the study.


“There are almost no examples of live, in-market cross media political advertising research,” said Michael Bassik, SVP digital strategy at Global Strategy Group. “It’s impossible to find campaigns and candidates who are willing to use their live campaigns for research purposes,” he said.

In a six-candidate statewide race getting little media attention compared to California’s prominent Senate and Gubernatorial races, Bassik described Kelly as one of the “least well known and least defined of the candidates” before the ad effort.

“The planets had to align for the study to take place,” he continued, noting that it required a large geographic area such as California to generate large enough samples of exposed and unexposed voters. And the exposed and unexposed markets would have to have similar demographic, psychographic, and political makeups. Plus, the campaign itself had to be willing to spend money on the ads and the research.

In the end, the study compared results of an online and TV campaign in Palm Springs with a TV-only campaign in Santa Barbara. Before any paid communications began, GSG conducted baseline surveys in May of 207 likely Democratic primary voters in the Palm Springs market and 224 likely Democratic voters in the Santa Barbara market. Following a month-long ad run, the company surveyed around 200 Democratic primary voters in each market, measuring favorability, recall, and vote share related to Kelly.

“I think political consultants are comfortable with the metrics and methodology used in this study – more so than they may have been about online-only survey research that has been done, and I think that may make them sit up and take notice,” said Grace Briscoe, regional director at Centro.

The online campaign, planned and executed by GSG in conjunction with Centro, included standard display, in-banner video units, pre-roll video, and other rich media units including pushdown ads on local news site homepages. “We also used a variety of media tactics, mixing premium site-specific placements with both broad reaching network buys and hyper-targeted placements,” said Briscoe.

According to the study, ads ran on sites such as,,, Fandango, and YouTube. Over 200 million online ad impressions introducing “Chris Kelly, Democrat for Attorney General” reached over 17 million Californians.

Chris Kelly Ad Test Results
Among Older Women 55+
Metric TV Ads Only Lift TV and Web Ads Lift
Overall Favorability 20% 26%
Seen/Read/Heard About Kelly 17% 25%
Likelihood to Vote for Kelly +2 +4
Source: Global Strategy Group’s The Effectiveness of Online Political Advertising Study, 2010
Chris Kelly Ad Test Results
Among White Women
Metric TV Ads Only Lift TV and Web Ads Lift
Overall Favorability 21% 33%
Seen/Read/Heard About Kelly 18% 24%
Likelihood to Vote for Kelly +4 +11
Source: Global Strategy Group’s The Effectiveness of Online Political Advertising Study, 2010

The study also looked at the ads’ effect on women, a key voting group for the campaign. In the cases of white women and women age 55 and up, online ads used in conjunction with TV advertising gave a boost to favorability and other metrics. The TV/Web combo lifted overall favorability towards Kelly by 26 percent among the older women, compared to 20 percent among those exposed to television ads alone. Those exposed to the Web ads were also more likely to vote for Kelly.

Meanwhile, the online ads had an even greater impact on white women according to the study. The TV and online ad mix led to a 33 percent lift in overall favorability compared to a 21 percent lift among those exposed only to TV spots. And, online ads nearly tripled likelihood to vote for Kelly among white women surveyed: While television ads alone resulted in a 4+ lift, the TV/Web combination led to an 11+ lift.

Both groups of women in the market exposed to the online and TV ads also were more likely to have seen, read, or heard about the candidate.

The idea that a TV and online ad mix can have more impact than either medium alone may seem like common sense, said Briscoe, “but we know the political community has been slow to widely adopt digital media as a vehicle for building awareness and persuading voters, and have been much more hesitant than non-political brand advertisers.”

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