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Mandate Media: Digital Strategy for People Changing the World
Our Blog for Tips, Tricks, and News: Politics + Technology

Reaching Voters Online with Web Ads

Most of the time, political campaigns use the internet to reach out to supporters - to build buzz, raise money, motivate volunteers, etc. And that's still our strong advice for websites and email.

But, is it possible to reach out to voters using web advertising? In the past, we've been skeptical - but with the advent of highly-targeted Google Ads, a creative strategy might hit voters on the issues that matter to them.

As Steven Johnson points out at Slate.com:

...a Web surfer who types "stem-cell research" into Google is, by definition, interested in learning more about stem-cell research. The Kerry campaign already has a page devoted exclusively to the candidate's embrace of stem-cell research—why not put that page in front of anyone and everyone who queries Google on the topic? Right now, someone who types in "stem-cell research" has to wade through 23 results (and three pages) to get to Kerry's site.

Of course, not only do the ads appear on Google search results page, but they also appear on thousands of other websites with related content.

The Kerry campaign has primarily used web advertising to drum up money from supporters - with generic ads on generic sites. This shotgun approach has worked fairly well, but the laser-precision approach described by Johnson would likely be a very cost-effective method: You only pay per-click, usually between 1 cent and 1 dollar (depending on the popularity of the keyword to other advertisers.)

Wired Magazine has also reported on another use of web ads by Kerry/Edwards: Buying ads on sites visited by opinion leaders (like NationalJournal.com) to hammer home the message that he won the first debate. Lesson? Use campaign events and news to drive ad buys.

One final note: The Pew Internet project just issued a study on web advertising by the presidential campaigns and various satellite organizations (527s, PACs, parties, etc.) From January to August, Kerry and the DNC have spent $1.5 million to $900 thousand for Bush and the RNC.