Political Consultants More Likely to Spend Online

ClickZ_Campaign08_katefinal.jpgAs the potential for CGM video, blogs and online donations to influence this year’s elections becomes apparent, political consultants are placing more and more importance on the Internet when developing campaigns. The portion of overall budgets going online is still small; however, a new report from non-partisan trade association E-Voter Institute shows that between 2006 and 2008, the percentage of consultants who devote over 20 percent of their campaign coffers to Web initiatives will nearly triple from 12 percent to 32 percent. Consultants cited rich media, newspaper site ads, Web sites, e-mail and blogs among the more effective means of campaigning online.

According to E-Voter’s “Moving to the Mainstream: Web-Based Political Communications on the Road to 2008,” 44 percent of the 155 political consultants surveyed in July estimate that 1 to 5 percent of campaign budgets will go towards an online effort this year. Thirty-eight percent said 6 to 20 percent will go online in ’06. And 11 percent said 2 to 50 percent will go towards the Web.

The estimates shift quite a bit in the Web’s favor for the 2016 election season, by which time, said 42 percent of consultants, 21 to 50 percent of budgets will move online. Also by 2016, thirty percent of consultants said 6 to 20 percent of budgets would be allocated to the Web, and 18 percent said over 51 percent of budgets would go online.

“There is a downward trend in consultants’ hesitation with using the Internet, particularly views of the Internet being an unlikely reach medium, too expensive and not an emotional medium,” notes the report. It found that 9 percent of consultants surveyed said the Web is an unlikely reach medium, down from 21 percent in 2002. In addition, contentions that the Internet is too expensive dropped to 1 percent, and arguments that the Web is not an emotional medium decreased from 8 to 3 percent since ’02.

Harking back to 2004 Web efforts from the likes of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, America Coming Together, and other 527 groups, consultants who worked with 527s were the least hesitant about recommending use of the Web to clients. In comparison, 28 percent of those who worked with Democratic candidates and 22 percent of those who worked with Republican candidates said they had no qualms about recommending the Internet to clients.

Consultants who bought or are managing an online ad campaign this year said newspaper site ads were the most successful Web ads, more so than TV sites, political sites, blogs or portals. While newspaper sites were named most successful by 26 percent of those consultants, TV and political sites were chosen by 25 percent, blogs by 17 percent, and portals and ethnic/religious sites 16 percent. Fifteen percent said search engines brought the most success.

Still, when factoring in traditional media, it’s important to note the disparity between using the Web and TV/cable, which was named by 81 percent of consultants as the best way for candidates and advocates to win campaigns in ’08. Thirty-eight percent favored direct mail, 32 percent each liked radio and Web sites, 21 percent said e-mail, 17 percent each named blogs and podcasts, 12 percent said newspaper ads, and 8 percent named online ads.

Voters surveyed separately as part of the study also named TV as the best way to get voters’ attention. Compared to those 43 percent who said television, 14 percent chose direct mail, 12 percent named word of mouth, 11 percent said e-mail, and 8 percent said Web sites. More than 1,400 people took the voter expectations portion of the survey.

Perhaps reflecting their growing perception that the Web is an emotional medium, consultants consider rich media an effective means of accomplishing a variety of campaign goals. Eighty-three percent said rich media is effective for garnering new e-mail addresses, 75 percent said it’s effective for taking surveys, 70 percent said it works for raising money and motivating the base, and 68 percent said it’s effective for persuasion objectives.

Second only to events (98 percent), 88 percent of consultants chose Web sites as the most effective method to reach and persuade a candidate’s loyal base, beating out TV ( 87 percent), radio (82 percent), mail (79 percent), and other traditional media outlets. Eighty-one percent said e-mail was most effective, 76 percent named blogs, and 56 percent chose online ads.

When it comes to reaching and persuading swing, independent and undecided voters, TV won out at 90 percent. Eighty-seven percent of consultants named events, 84 percent said radio, 81 percent mail, 80 percent Web sites and 58 percent online ads.

The report was conducted in conjunction with research partner HCD Research and sponsored by rich media technology firm PointRoll.

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