Valueclick Aims to Attract a Slice of Political Web Ad Sliver

ClickZ_Campaign08_katefinal.jpgValueclick is the latest to jump on the “let’s try to cash in on these political ad dollars” bandwagon. The firm put out a press release today suggesting Web ads (primarily display units) are an “alternative way to stand out in crowded local television markets and a way to reach younger, affluent, professional voters who cannot be reached through television advertising.”

I certainly don’t want to detract from their offer or the notion that ad networks should be used by political campaigns, but consider a couple points:

Although Valueclick can enable video in banners as well as in-stream video ad formats, the notion that Web ads will be an “alternative” to television spots probably will be scoffed at by political media buyers and campaigns. I think “complement” is the more appropriate term. Though some campaigns including McCain’s and Romney‘s have done some branding/persuasion-oriented Web advertising in the past year (what TV is used for) most online ads have been employed by the campaigns for specific direct-response purposes (volunteer signups, in-person event registration/promotion, fundraising).

“In addition to geographic targeting by state, DMA or ZIP codes, ValueClick Media’s large audience can be highly segmented based on contextual, demographic, psychographic and behavioral attributes,” notes the release. Of course political campaigns want to be able to geo-target, and some have been, via ad networks including Valueclick (from what I’ve gathered).

However, political campaigns often want to target ads to particular voting precincts or wards at GOTV (Get Out The Vote) time. The big presidential campaigns have smart in-house interactive teams (or consulting teams) who are aware of online advertising, ad networks and targeting capabilities. One thing that could convince them to either start spending through networks or spend more would be the ability to target on the precinct level.

If a network enables that leading up to the general election, I’d bet it would attract some real interest.

And let’s not forget, though we’ll no doubt continue to see an uptick in political ad spending on the Web for years to come, the portion of ad budgets going online now is miniscule. Plus, even the Romney campaign, which ran the most ads of all the presidential candidates in ’07, wonders whether spending any more on Web ads would be worthwhile. In a discussion about the campaign’s interactive efforts, Mindy Finn, e-strategy director for the campaign told me recently, “I don’t think there’s room for online advertising to have a much greater share [in the Romney for President ad budget]…. One thing to remember is that online advertising is just so much cheaper.”

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