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@ PDF: Candidates Make More Money Online, But Ad Spend Still Goes Elsewhere

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imageThe issue of the gap between the amount of time users spend online and the ad dollars marketers devote to the internet is pretty pronounced. But compared to the minute figures flowing from political campaigns, businesses are practically profligate. A panel of beltway-based operatives offered some views of the current state of online political ad spend at the Personal Democracy Forum:

Banners work for Dems: Michael Bassik, VP Interactive Marketing at MSHC Partners, a left-leaning “voter contact” firm: Bassik rattled off a number of stats about the intersection of advertising and politics. More people have gone online to retrieve political information by this point then in the whole of the 2004 election. And in March, 80 percent of Obama’s $25 million raised came from online. Four years, before, Democratic candidate John Kerry saw similar success with banners. So, given the patterns of contributions, how come candidates aren’t putting some of that money back online in the form of ads? Abut 9 percent of ad budgets are being spent online in general. Asked around the room, how much of the $4.8 billion total campaign spending will go towards online, 0.4 percent will be spent on the internet. The bulk of the money for online will be used as the race winds down, when the campaigns will look around and say, “We can’t afford not to be everywhere.”

GOP-er votes for search: Bassik said he found that banner ads drove a lot of new users and tended to encourage returning contributors. That might have worked on the left, but Katie Harbath, an exec at the political consultancy DCI Group who worked on Rudolph Giuliani’s failed GOP campaign, felt that banner ads were too expensive. Instead search was the way to go for Giuliani’s campaign. Interestingly, “War on terror” and “energy” provided greater responses as Giuliani campaign keywords than the candidate’s name. But apart from what worked and what didn’t with Giuliani, Harbath had a simple answer for the minuscule money going to online political ads: Show me someone who’s won an election because of the internet. Howard Dean didn’t do it; but if Barack Obama wins, that will change the way campaigns view the medium. When some audience members grumbled about the dominance of TV over advertising, another attendee in a back room quipped: “Don’t worry, hardly anyone ever goes to the bathroom during the commercials.” Still don’t expect a great jump in ad spend from the current 0.4 percent, Bassik: “Maybe we’ll get up to 6 percent by the election of 2024.

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