Driven to Drink

Just about every time Spot-on ventures out to a conference or confab about 21st century American politics, we hear someone say online ads don’t “really” change voter sentiment.

Since online doesn’t “move the numbers” it’s often seen as an “extra” for a well-funded campaign. Or worse: a waste of time and money.

That’s when Team Spot-on starts thinking about the location of the nearest bar and its hours of operation.

You long-time readers will know there’s growing evidence that online does affect voter sentiment. And since – with reason – no campaign is willing to entirely forsake television advertising for online, polling data can’t accurately measure online ad performance separate from television.

But this is beside the point. One medium does not replace the other.

So let us take this opportunity to point you skeptics out there to some info collected this last cycle: Polling data from Global Strategies Group showing a lift in numbers for TV and online. Our own numbers showing a dramatic increase in site traffic during an online-only campaign in Los Angeles. And there’s this round up from ClickZ on the search for a GRP for online.

There’s also increasing frustration with the kinds of creative being developed for banners – one we share. This article in on the tech news site Mashable is a good overview. If you want the strictly political take, the NYTimes’ Matt Bai took a few shots at the “Internet” president and wondered why Obama hasn’t done a better job of engaging online.

For those of you more interested in numbers than art, let us suggest you check out the useful Google Analytics. This FREE online measurement tool can tell you what’s bringing visitors to a website, what they do once they arrive and how long they stay. And in this off year, you’ve got lots of time to play around with it!

Analytics users have chimed in with their own take on what works and how some of Google metrics can be customized. One of the better how-to’s on this topic, well worth a read comes from blogger and entrepreneur Om Malik. Google has a helpful blog on the subject as well.

Whitman’s Strategy

She didn’t win but Meg Whitman’s online strategy was a sound one for candidates at all levels to follow as Kate Kaye explains in her ClickZ post today. The campaign spent a lot – roughly $3 million – but that was still only small percentage of the $100 million-plus Whitman spent on all ad efforts.

Here’s Kaye’s story.

The Whitman campaign followed most of the golden rules: Start early. Target and optimize your efforts. Don’t just looking at political ‘pages’ for ads but at an overall online media strategy that combines smart use of targeting with media buying at the local level. We’d also point out the lack of emphasis on search-based advertising.

The only point we here at Spot-on would add: You don’t need $3 million to do this. The strategy Whitman used can be scaled down to the local level very nicely. Feel free to ask us how.

All About Us

Spot-on’s been in the news lately so for you those of you stuck on conference calls of the non-crisis variety (as if….), here’s a run-down of what we’ve been doing and saying.

– Chiming in on the discussion over gross rating points and how that metric can – or should – get translated to the web in this ClickZ article.

– Chatting with eVoter Institute (and sometimes Spotlight blogger Karen Jagoda) about that same metric – gross rating points – and the importance of local news sites. That radio interview has two parts; part one on news sites and their importance and part two on GOTV efforts and online ad placement.

– Seeing Cerrell Associate’s use of Spot-on’s virtual slate card in June profiled in the most recent issue of Campaigns & Elections magazine. Here’s a pdf of the story, as well.

This Week’s Back To School Reads

This week’s selection, in honor of the official start of the “in earnest” campaign season, highlights the work of Spot-on pal Kate Kaye over at ClickZ. Kate’s got the franchise on covering online and politics so if you’re not checking out her work regularly, you’re missing out.
Here’s a write-up of the increasingly more important Chris Kelly campaign study.
You can get a pdf of the study right here.
Also, if you’re in New York next week, the Personal Democracy Forum’s holding an event to discuss the results. Details for that evening are over at PDF’s site.
Before you go – or even if you stay home, you might want to check out experienced tech journalist Lee Gomes has a few observations about entertainment marketing and paid advertising. Best used in concert, he says, which makes sense to us. And we’re pretty sure he hasn’t seen the Kelly study results.
Also, important, the below-the-fold stuff in this New York Times piece about the new Google search. The “psychic” aspect of New Google is great if you’re running for president. But down-ballot candidates may now have an even harder time catching audience attention online. And prices for popular search phrases are certainly headed up.

Digital Politics: Talking Slate Cards

We can’t say enough about our virtual slate cards and eVoter Institute’s Karen Jagoda was kind enough to help us out earlier this week.

Spot-on founder Chris Nolan appeared on Karen’s Digital Politics podcast to talk about the slate card’s versatility and its use in down-ballot races. You can listen here and here.

If you’d care to skip the audio part of the program, a brief run-down on our how virtual slate card works – and works well – is here.

Online Ad Targeting: Now A Consumer Issue

Here at Spot-on we’ve always been a little leery of online ad targeting.

In the online political space, targeting – using computer code to personalize advertising as a reader moves around the web – can backfire, especially when sensitive topics make in onto ballots or take center stage in campaigns. People might not mind putting a check in the mail but they sure do mind being “followed” on the web. Add to that the fact that Internet use is heaviest at the office, and, well, you can see why questions about privacy can’t be dismissed.

That’s why this week’s Wall Street Journal series on online privacy is so important. It details – with plain language and easy-to-understand graphics – how targeting works. And it talks with intelligence and political sense about how ad data is collected and how it’s used.

This won’t be the last of these stories; it’s just the 1st. Other outlets will pile on. Which means online ad targeting – pretty much the nerdy purview of the Federal Trade Commission and Congressional subcommittees – is now a consumer issue. You can count on more and more discussions – not to mention questions from clients – along with grandstanding and camera-hogging.

Why is this important for political media? It’s been very easy for some of these firms to market targeting as a well-used and familiar tool because it can look like the targeting used in direct mail. That’s probably going to change as companies amend their practices to conform to regulatory pressure. That’s the good news.

The bad news? Aggressive online targeting is a potential campaign issue – just like voting history or financial holdings. That’s the main reason Spot-on urges clients to use targeting carefully, especially for the hot-button issues that bring voters to the polls.

Editor’s Note: Chris Nolan is Spot-on’s founder. In another life she covered Congress and the regulation of the telecom business for Washington-based trade magazines.

Really, Online Works

Following up on our post from a few weeks ago talking about how online ads and do drive traffic to campaign websites – even when the buy isn’t very large – we have this study from the folks at Global Strategies Group (in concert with Google and Centro, the Chicago-based media house).

Bottom-line: Online ads impress voters. GSG, which bought for Chris Kelly, a candidate for attorney general, in the Democratic primary surveyed voters who had seen online ads and those who just saw TV. Voters who saw both, had a more favorable impression of Kelly than those who didn’t.

You can check it out for yourself: GSG-Ad_Effectiveness_CaseStudy.pdf