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« Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 897 -- Federal Pay Disparity. | WILLisms.com | Happy Thanksgiving. »

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 898 -- Is Online Advertising Under-utilized?

At The Very Least, Newspaper Ads Are Over-utilized-

A great post from Eric Wilson at Engage DC on how online advertising is still taking a while to catch on at the levels its popularity commands:


Wilson also points out that time watching television fell 14 minutes last year, with TiVo-style time-shifted TV watching going up by 18%. He adds:

...online ad spending is “ripe for innovation” because of two key factors: First, the amount of time spent online and second, the ability to customize and target advertising to specific demographics.

For the political space, I would add the advanced geo-targeting as a third and very important factor for growth in online advertising. The vast majority of most campaigns’ typical media budgets goes to television, and, because TV (for the most part) isn’t targeted lots of money is spent on convincing people who can’t vote for the candidate.

Why hasn't online advertising caught on more among the political crowd, even among many new media converts in the political sphere?

A few reasons.

1. First, a lot of candidates (and, frankly, brands of all varieties) spent money online and got burned a decade ago, or 5 years ago. Ad effectiveness cratered as pop-up blockers and decentralized social web proliferated. Ad rates plummeted. The bubble burst, and online ads have never quite recovered.

2. Second, most top-tier political campaigns are run by long-term professionals who: a) have a time-tested formula which doesn't include online advertising that has worked for a generation; and b) often have a personal financial stake in running traditional forms of media advertising.

3. Third, there are not enough data or even anecdotal examples to point to showing that online advertising achieved tangible results, whereas television ads verifiably do move poll numbers and cause a surge in donations. Yes, Obama "used the internet," but there's an impression that the interwebs were a self-sustaining, money-making magnet for the Obama campaign, rather than a large budget line with a full-time devoted staff of dozens. Plural.

4. Fourth, for many campaigns, "doing the internet" is not worth it unless it pays for itself and/or raises enough surplus money to pay for additional traditional forms of campaigning.

5. Fifth, campaigns are often overwhelmed by the sheer multitude of options online. With television, radio, and print (and even billboards), there's a clearly defined playing field that doesn't change all that often. Online, the hot website of the day may have not existed 2 years ago. The hot website from 5 years ago may be a shell of its former self today. Ad networks with thousands of websites are overwhelming and confusing for the folks at political campaigns with the power of the purse. Even straightforward ad-serving on popular websites is confusing; not only can you advertise on Facebook, you can advertise to specific ages, genders, and locations around specific interests. The idea of creating dozens-- or even hundreds-- of unique permutations of the same message, and conveying those messages out across thousands of unique channels, is daunting for many campaigns. They don't have the manpower or creative juice to pull it off. Or at least they think they don't.

6. Sixth, while many political campaigns are perfectly content spending millions upon millions of dollars advertising to non-voters during football games or the World Series featuring hometown teams, many campaigns look at where their online ads are going to be shown in these massive online ad networks and say, "I don't want to advertise to gardening channels, or wine-making clubs, that's stupid." It very well might be stupid. The Google team is certainly somewhat tone deaf when it comes to suggesting influential political sites to advertise on-- they suggested far-left fringe sites like The Daily Kos for Texas Governor Rick Perry's campaign, for example.

7. Seventh, while advertising on traditional platforms is fairly straightforward and verifiable (meaning, you can buy ads on cable, and then see ads on cable, or buy ads in the newspaper and see them in the newspaper), there are too many hucksters out there peddling "a million Christians in North Texas on my sms list, yours for a low low price" or "hundreds of thousands of gun-owning readers, all from East Texas." Some of these may be legitimate. Most are not. It's difficult to verify a lot of targeted online activity, because you can't just go into the channels and wait for the ads the way you can with television ads. Frankly, it can be hard to differentiate between the rogue hucksters and the established online marketers in their sales pitches and (lack of) knowledge of how political messaging and how political campaigns operate.

There may be other reasons online advertising among political campaigns is taking a while to catch on, but these are some I have witnessed firsthand.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Federal Pay Overblown.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 November 2010 11:53 AM