Political Consultants Don’t Make Enough Scratch on Web Ads

Ever wonder why political advertisers don’t spend more online? Well, sure, they’re all “reaching out to the netroots,” and sending lots of fundraising e-mails. But the fact is, even though they’re bound to be running lots more online ads than ever this election season, the amount of money will probably be negligible compared to what they spend on TV.

One reason I’ve heard from proponents of online political advertising is affirmed in a Rolling Stone article (by way of The Wall Street Journal’s Informed Reader column). The reason? Consultants won’t earn nearly as much commission on Web ads, which cost a lot less than TV spots.

Here’s the deal, as written in the Rolling Stone piece: “While their GOP counterparts work for a flat fee on presidential campaigns, Democratic media consultants profit on commission, pocketing as much as ten percent of every dollar spent on TV ads…The more the candidate spends on TV advertising, the more the consultant cashes in.”

I’ve heard someone involved in the interactive campaign for John Kerry in 2004 express this same lament.

The story goes on to note the Bush/Cheney ’04 campaign’s focus on microtargeting voters on cable TV and the Web. (Check out my post about how political advertisers use voter data to target Web ads.)

There’s a great quote from Clinton and Gore strategist Chris Lehane, who says the Dems are way behind in technology compared to the GOP (this has long been a major criticism of the DNC):

“Why aren’t campaigns doing what Google and Yahoo do: using algorithms to analyze e-mail lists and figure out what moves people on a daily basis? If you had this conversation with a consultant in Washington, they’d say, ‘What do you mean, algorithm?’ “

From my experience talking to consultants and media people on both sides of the aisle who work on campaigns, the Republican side seems a lot more informed by commercial advertising and marketing strategies, and they’re not afraid to apply techniques employed by auto or CPG brands to promote a candidate. Is it really any surprise the right is more successful when it comes to hard nosed business tactics?

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