Senate Candidate Web Ads Take Cues from McCain, Obama

ClickZ_Campaign08_katefinal.jpgSenatorial candidates are taking cues from presidential campaigns in their approach to online ad messaging. Democrats Mark Udall and Mark Warner want voters to “Join” their campaigns for Senate, mimicking the ubiquitous “Join Us” message seen in Senator Barack Obama’s ads throughout his campaign for the Presidency. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, is using outrage over high gas prices as a way to garner signups, an online ad tactic employed by Republican Presidential hopeful Senator John McCain.

“Gas prices are out of control. Congress Must Take Action Now. Tell Congress to Support American Energy Today,” read the ads from the McConnell campaign. Like McCain’s ads, which suggest that people support his gas tax moratorium, ads for the Kentucky incumbent prompt them to sign a petition. The ultimate goal, of course, is to retrieve contact information for future volunteer and donation requests. The ads can be seen currently on, and were spotted in June by Nielsen Online’s AdRelevance on conservative sites including National Review and Town Hall, in addition to WorldNetDaily and Topix.

Mark Udall, a Congressman from Colorado hoping to win a Senate seat representing the state, asked Web users to “Join Us” in ads seen on local newspaper sites,, and The candidate also points to Obama’s “change” motif in other ads stating, “They’re blowing, the winds of change, right here, in Colorado.”

Democratic Senate candidate from Virginia, Mark Warner, also wanted voters to “Join the Campaign” in ads that ran in June. The former Virginia Governor has a history of experimenting with digital campaigning; in 2006 he appeared in Second Life for a virtual interview. Ads for Warner were seen earlier in the campaign season as well.

Most online display ads placed by local and Congressional candidates tend to be aimed at fostering name recognition, driving Web site traffic, and scoring online donations. Not only is it rare to see Web ads that go beyond a name and a tagline from such candidates, it’s rare to see them go on the attack. Steve Harrison, underdog candidate for New York’s 13th Congressional District running against Democratic primary rival Mike McMahon, took that approach in ads seen online in June. “If you’ll like Bush’s War…then you’ll love McMahon…,” declared ads shown on Staten Island’s

Harrison’s camp is relying on Web advertising for the bulk of its paid media spending. “The vast majority of our media dollars are going to go there,” said Roy Moskowitz, CEO of Reciprocal Results, who is handling media buying and PR for the Harrison campaign. In addition to contrasting Harrison from McMahon, the ads were intended to push traffic to the candidate’s site and spur donations.

When the Harrison campaign launched a year ago, New York politics blog Daily Gotham was re-branded with Harrison ads, according to Moskowitz.

Up against endorsements of McMahon by the likes of Senator Hillary Clinton, Harrison’s campaign is planning a campaign launch later this month on “We’re buying the front page and we’re also buying the political forums,” said Moskowitz, adding, “The Political forum [section] is probably the best way of reaching people voting in the primary.”

The new ads will focus on a range of issues, including energy policy, the Iraq War, fair wages, and — one especially significant to Staten Islanders traveling daily to work in Manhattan — commuting. Being the lesser-known candidate, Harrison’s campaign is focused on building grassroots support online.

Besides Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, other local candidates with ads that ran in June tracked by AdRelevance are all Democrats: New Jersey Congressman Rob Andrews, Florida Congressman Robert Wexler, Congressional hopeful from Nebraska Jim Esch, South Carolina State Senator Darrell Jackson, and Scott Peters, San Diego City Council president running for city attorney.

UPDATE: This story originally implied that Roy Moskowitz said Harrison is the lesser-known candidate. In reality, this is an editorial description, and Moskowitz never said that.

Related reading

Website landing page vector graphic