Romney Campaign Took Chances in Online Ad Strategy

ClickZ_Campaign08_katefinal.jpgMitt Romney may be out of the Republican presidential nomination race, but let’s not forget his campaign did some innovative stuff when it came to online ads. In addition to running the most display ads of any campaign in 2007 — about 100 million impressions, according to Nielsen Online AdRelevance, the campaign was among the first to use Web ads for persuasion purposes.

This may not seem like a big deal, but the reality is when political ad consultants and campaign staffers think of online ads, they think fundraising and database or list building. Those are the two main goals of online political ads. Don’t get me wrong, they seem to work well for these purposes, plus they provide straight forward metrics for measuring ROI: how much money did we rake in or how many names did we add compared to how much was spent?

But ask most people involved with the interactive aspect of campaigns and they’ll say Web ads don’t work for persuasion purposes. Romney for President ran some of the only persuasion-oriented ads we’ve seen this election season.

In December, the campaign ran ads promoting the former Massachusetts Governor’s “clear vision of change for America,” and mirrored the “Romney knows how to run a business” message the campaign focused on in other media. The ad told voters, “He did it in business, the Olympics, and in Massachusetts and He can do it in Washington.” Other ad creative presented components of Romney’s platform: “Republicans Have to Get Our Own House in Order. Stop wasteful spending. Secure the borders. Insist on high ethical standards.”

The campaign was also the first (to my knowledge) to use the video overlay format. Oh, and it was probably the first Republican campaign to run ads on Gay.com (however unwittingly)….

Interestingly, the news of that faux pas led me to further investigate the information I’d been using throughout the year (and previous years) for much of the Campaign ’08 coverage; that prompted a major revision of Nielsen data, and according to the firm, some changes in the way they track political ads.

Of course, the Romney camp did run fundraising ads, too. Mimicking ads run earlier in 2007, the campaign set a specific fundraising goal in December and gave it a name: Media Victory Fund. Display units featuring pop-art style graphics and bright colors told supporters to, “Tune in to Victory. Help Put Mitt Over the Top. $1,000,000 Media Victory Fund. Be Part of Mitt’s TV Campaign.” An earlier effort pushed “Project 44,” and aimed to collect $44 from donors to support his run to be the 44th President.

I spoke with Romney for President’s e-strategy director Mindy Finn in January about the campaign’s online ad and e-mail efforts, including its heavy use of ad networks and geo-targeting, as well as how the campaign measured results — for its direct-response and persuasion ads. (Read the full coverage here.)

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