The political battle in Silicon Valley is not among Republican presidential candidates — everyone figures that those in the valley will vote Democratic as usual in November. Rather it’s between the major social networks, who are trying to attract the candidates’ ads, Politico
reports. Those networks would be Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
“They’re each trying to have the value add of being the fastest-moving vertical” integrator, Zac Moffatt, digital strategist for the Romney campaign, told Politico. “When I started doing this three years ago, Google had two people, Facebook had no one, and Twitter didn’t have advertising at all. Now, I’m watching them all expand.”
The campaigns have a good reason to focus their advertising efforts on the Internet, as that is where many people now go for their political news. In 2010, 73 percent of adult Internet users went online to get information about the elections or to join a campaign, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
The three tech titans provide novel means for the candidates to advertise. For example, various candidates have posted ads to Google’s YouTube. Even more innovative, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has placed ads on Facebook targeting Christian college students in South Carolina.
Google is the most established player in the field of campaign advertising. It has helped every candidate develop an ad strategy, tailoring YouTube for viewers in specific states or cities for example.
In 2008 and 2010, candidates used Google ads most for fundraising. This time around, they are using them to sway voters. And the candidates are using Google for negative ads as well as positive ones. On the negative side, they’re running search ads. So in Iowa, a Google search for Rick Santorum would bring up an attack ad from Perry’s campaign.
YouTube has a “TrueView” feature that tracks how long viewers watch an ad, and candidates pay only when a viewer watches most of the ad.
Facebook gives campaigns the ability to reach voters of a target demographic, because users fork over their personal information. In Iowa, for example, Perry’s campaign sent a video featuring his wife, Anita, to the pages of conservative women in the state.
Twitter jumped into the political advertising sandbox last September. A candidate can buy a “promoted tweet” that will appear upon use of a certain search term and in the timelines of campaign followers. Twitter also offers a “promoted account” to increase the number of followers, and a “promoted trend” that will place a campaign ad at the front of popular topics.
Campaigns are discovering more and more uses for social media as the race progresses. “What’s really different this cycle is that we’re seeing campaigns start to add a social element into everything they do,” Facebook’s Katie Harbath told Politico.
Television still will pick up the bulk of campaign ad spending this year, but the online arena is growing fast. “It will be a seismic shift in terms of the amount of budgets these mediums are getting,” Josh Koster, managing partner of Chong + Koster, a digital media firm, told Politico.
Some campaigns will allocate up to 10 percent of their advertising budgets to Web ads, said Eric Frenchman of Campaign Solutions, who managed Michele Bachmann’s digital efforts while she was in the race.
With TV advertising time already bought out in early primary states, “you can have a much more significant impact if you go mostly digital at this point,” Frenchman said. The Romney campaign used YouTube for much of its advertising close to the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses/primary dates, and now it’s doing the same ahead of Saturday’s vote in South Carolina.
Google and Facebook should see more action than Twitter, whose ad space is smaller at this juncture.
But it’s not even clear that the tech giants need to fight with each other for business. “They all have large audiences, so it’s in the best interest of the campaigns to be on all the platforms,” Alan Rosenblatt, associate director of online advocacy for the Center for American Progress, told Politico.
“Is there a competition between ABC and NBC to get political ads? I don’t think so. They’re all going to get political ads.”
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