Decision ’08 in Online Video Advertising

The entire United States is politically charged as the 2008 race for the White House continues. In advertising, politicians are stretching themselves to better incorporate all that the Internet has to offer. Voters have more access than ever to politicians, polls, and public forums, making this an extremely transparent election. Americans can watch and rewatch video advertisements, speeches, and debates to be thoroughly educated.

Borrell Associates predicts that politicians will spend $20 million on Internet advertising in 2008, and that, according to eMarketer, is a small part of the $5 billion to be spent on their total advertising plans. Online video ads are earmarked to receive only $4.7 million of that budget. Since politicians rely heavily on TV advertising, there’s a real opportunity to easily convert and edit their commercials for Web use. With so much of their marketing budgets dedicated to other media, let’s investigate just how well candidates are using video advertising now.

The following is an analysis of the remaining main candidates from both parties:

  • Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s site has a “Hillary TV” page that houses a complete set of her promotional videos. It does not, however, include any clips of speeches or debates. It also incorporates video testimonials from Americans who speak about their personal interactions with the candidate. All of Clinton’s video ads are readily available on her site. While she has probably produced more campaign videos than the other candidates, video titles don’t properly explain what the video is about, so searches for “hillary clinton” on both YouTube and Google Video fail to elicit favorable search results.

  • Mike Huckabee. Huckabee incorporates user-generated video on his Web site, in addition to video clips of his speeches and TV ads. He has a channel on YouTube and employs some optimization techniques, as a search for “Mike Huckabee” yields an even split between pro and anti Huckabee results. That said, his campaign doesn’t optimize his video for other tail video sites, like dailymotion.com. No videos produced by the candidate are among most search results. Unlike other candidates, some of his videos seem to have been created specifically for the Web, but these clips don’t appear in ads. They serve as an additional forum for him to reach voters on his site.
  • John McCain. McCain has a multimedia page that compartmentalizes videos into four groups: “On the Road,” “On the Issues,” “About John McCain,” and “On the Lighter Side.” McCain also has a YouTube channel and videos on Google Video and Metacafe. While his video is on the Internet, it’s not optimized to elicit positive searches on video aggregator sites. When I searched for “John McCain,” unflattering user-generated videos outnumbered those created by McCain’s campaign. There’s also no incorporation of live video. However, this candidate uses both in-page and in-banner video ads. With Flash and standard ads, there are also links out to videos on McCain’s site.
  • Barack Obama. Obama has the best organic optimization of videos of all the candidates. When I searched on YouTube and Google Video, promotional material developed by the Obama camp outranked videos produced by others. This is most likely due to keyword and video title optimization to help search results. Like McCain, Obama has a dedicated YouTube channel for his videos, and his site has “Barack TV,” which separates video clips by topic, date, and target demographic. On the other side, searches for “Barack Obama” on aggregator and tail video sites yield no relevant results, and Obama doesn’t use video in online advertisements, only Flash.

While the candidates are notoriously behind the technological times, one candidate who’s no longer in the race grasped what the Web can do. Mitt Romney utilized both in-banner and in-page video advertisements; ads expanded and video clips initiated as users rolled over the ads. In most instances, Romney gave users a choice of two videos that loaded within the banner or in-page ad.

Since political campaigns need to counteract opponent messages, appeal across bipartisan lines, and speak to the public at large, it’s surprising the candidates don’t use better optimization techniques to ensure their video messages have top rankings. There’s an enormous opportunity for politicians to use online video to enhance their entire ad campaigns. And from an industry standpoint, we’d all benefit from portions of their hefty TV budgets moving online.

Want more campaign information? Check out ClickZ News Campaign ’08 section for the latest.

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