PointRoll and Others Reach Out to Undecided Political Market


A variety of video ad technology vendors are making their way into the political market, but whether campaign decision-makers are keen on their wares is another thing. PointRoll today has announced its Voter Impact suite of ad formats repackaged in an attempt to appeal to politicos. Klipmart, Unicast and others have also provided political campaigns with their video ad offerings recently. Although many consultants agree that video advertising is well-suited for political campaigns, they’re not so sure ad technology vendors truly grasp the differences between their needs and those of the commercial advertisers they’ve long served.

Along with featuring video, PointRoll’s new expandable formats will allow supporters to submit donation pledges, make secure in-unit donations, and respond to issue-based polls that can be used to optimize subsequent ad messaging. Campaigns can also propel get-out-the-vote efforts through ads that pre-populate voter registration forms, and allow users to email the actual ad unit, and schedule mobile text or calendar reminders.

Speaking generally about online video advertising, Brian Reich, director of Boston operations and senior strategic consultant for Mindshare Interactive Campaigns, said that he recommends the format to his clients. Still, he’s skeptical that those clients will achieve a significant return on video ads until all technology providers recognize the differences between political and commercial ad objectives. “Selling consumer goods is very different than selling issues,” he asserted.

Reich received an email pitch from a sales manager at digital ad management company AdDynamix about a week ago. The message mentioned the firm’s ability to run TV ads through its network, noting that its technology has been used by advertisers to drive sales and leads. “We believe it can be used to influence voters both nationally and locally,” continued the missive.

Viewpoint has touted a new video ad campaign that uses its Unicast technology for U.S. Senate candidate Mike McGavick, a Republican from Washington. The awareness campaign features three different ads that are geotargeted on FoxNews.com and DrudgeReport.com, in addition to running on Seattle NBC affiliate site KING5.com, Spokane CBS affiliate KREM.com, and newspaper sites SpokesmanReview.com and SeattleTimes.com.

Roger Alan Stone, CEO of online political campaign firm Advocacy Inc., thinks PointRoll is making a concerted effort to court political clients. He cited PointRoll sponsorship of an August event hosted by Campaigns and Elections Magazine and E-Voter Institute, a group that educates political campaigns about using the Web. PointRoll will also be conducting joint presentations with its parent company, Gannett, according to PointRoll CEO Christopher Saridakis.

“One of the biggest problems that the vendors have run into in this market is simply learning to speak the language,” observed Stone. “No candidate thinks in terms of branding; all they care about is name I.D.”

Saridakis opined, “Whether we call the candidate a brand or not…the function and reality of getting it done is no different.”

Both Reich and Stone pointed to a need for more online ad inventory, especially in the final days of an election cycle when TV time is booked, donations are funneling in, and campaigns are scrambling to spend the remainder of their kitty. “If PointRoll were to enable that with [publisher] venues, that’s something the political market would appreciate,” noted Stone.

“On the Web it really is a challenge” to reserve inventory, said Saridakis. PointRoll and Gannett will be packaging the media firm’s television and Web media properties to sell to political clients; however, there won’t necessarily be Web inventory set aside for those clients for use at particular times, according to Saridakis.

Klipmart doesn’t pre-purchase inventory for political clients either, said Chris Wilson, director of marketing at the video ad firm. “If they come to us at the last minute, it’ll be a little harder,” he admitted. The company works with political consulting firm MSHC Partners in addition to a few others, but hasn’t worked directly with candidate campaigns. Klipmart hasn’t introduced any new formats or packaged them in different ways to attract the political market, said Wilson. Klipmart was just acquired by DoubleClick, which will combine Klipmart’s technology and services with its DART Motif rich media platform.

“I think that every two years [technology vendors] rediscover the political ad industry,” commented MSHC VP Internet Advertising Michael Bassik. In addition to using Klipmart’s offerings this year, MSHC is running a PointRoll roll-over ad for a client. The consulting shop also has worked with video technology firm Rovion to enhance the Web site for ForwardTogether PAC, a group chaired by former Virginia Governor Mark Warner, whose name some have floated as a potential Democratic Presidential contender.

“We’re actively pursing both candidates directly and [political] consulting companies and media agencies,” said Rovion CEO Len Ostroff, adding that it’s still a tad early for a major push. His firm is also having discussions with local, regional and national parties.

Bassik explained that customer service and the ability to accommodate candidates’ tight turnaround times for updating ad creative is essential when choosing a vendor. Pricing is also important, he said, noting that Klipmart gives his firm a $1 discounted CPM rate, lowering it from $3 to $2. Klipmart confirmed this, noting that prices are negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

PointRoll doesn’t offer a lower price to political clients. “We’ve never had to discount our products to get into a market,” said PointRoll’s Saridakis.

In the end, many consultants agree that candidates will have to see video ads actually contribute to a campaign success before they’re convinced to use it in any dedicated way. “Part of the problem is that online advertising has yet to be proven effective as a way to win a political campaign,” suggested Bassik, adding, “We lack the politically effective research” to prove whether or not video is persuasive enough.

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