Web Marketing Vet Gets Schooled by Own Hoboken Political Campaign

One would think an online marketing and tech industry veteran would have no surprises when using the Web for his own election campaign, but Hoboken, New Jersey’s Scott Delea had a few things to learn. President of Jersey’s Adverb Media, Delea is running in today’s City Council election in the storied mile square city on the Hudson.

“For a marketer, being in a political campaign is a fantastic way to learn,” said Delea.

As Senior VP and GM of Adverb’s full-service interactive marketing firm DigitalGrit, Delea didn’t realize how difficult online local advertising could be when trying to reach just a small district within his hometown. Pinpointing voters online in Hoboken’s fifth ward, where he’s running as an independent, has been a challenge. “In Hoboken you need to target street by street,” he said, “and direct marketing is the only thing that can do that.”

Landing in e-mail inboxes has been tough, too, since voter registration data do not include e-mail addresses. So, he’s been reliant upon the in-house e-mail list his campaign has compiled organically. Services for appending voter registration data to e-mail addresses are available, however, and more and more local and state voter registration forms include optional e-mail address fields.

“Online advertising has come a long way, but it still has a way to go for local marketers,” Delea told ClickZ News. His campaign experience, including an original run for the same council seat two years ago, has reinforced his belief that “It’s not about just using the Internet; it’s about using the proper mix of channels most effectively.”

That’s meant not only having a presence online, but doing “tons” of direct mail, telemarketing, and neighborhood canvassing in mornings, evenings and on weekends. Delea also ran a unique ad campaign in the print edition of The Hoboken Reporter. The post-it sized ad was attached to the front page of every paper delivered to residents in his ward.

“It was the equivalent of an offline popup ad,” said Delea, noting his campaign didn’t run component online ads on the newspaper’s Web site. Though he described his ward as “a little bit more Internet literate,” Delea said, “Print is very important to the community.”

His campaign certainly hasn’t neglected the Web. In addition to a Web site and blog, Delea has sent fundraising e-mails and placed banners and text ads on Hobokeni.com, Hoboken.com and Hoboken411, a site that employs the tagline, “Making our community stronger with technology.” Another candidate running for the council seat representing Hoboken’s fourth ward, Dawn Zimmer, has also placed display banners on the Hoboken411 site.

Delea’s Web ads were purchased direct from the sites as well as through Google’s AdWords, he said. One Google text ad for the candidate reads, “Better Schools by Mentoring! Results not Rhetoric!” and links to his site.

“We’d like to do video, but they don’t have the inventory yet,” said Delea, noting he’s had difficulty finding online video ad opportunities with significant reach within the small local area he needs to target. “We haven’t even gone as far as we’d like to,” he continued. The candidate has relied on friends and family to help out with the campaign.

In local campaigns where coverage can be spotty at best, candidates are especially sensitive to word of mouth spread by constituents and political operatives. And, as it has been in presidential primary campaigns, social media tools are having an effect even in Delea’s little corner of Hoboken. “We’re monitoring [online political banter] very closely,” said Delea. His campaign has tested a service developed by RelevantNoise, a DigitalGrit-related outfit that tracks online buzz.

Delea has “responded in-depth” to opinions about himself and his campaign on the Hoboken411 site, where users can post comments in sections dedicated to specific voting wards. Still, he said, “It’s almost dangerous to do that….The anonymous posts can be so vicious and so incessant. It’s almost like being a Yankees fan and going to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park.”

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