Political advertising

Battle for Voter Eyeballs

If you are a political junky or just a Web surfer, you will probably get your fill and then some of online political advertising. In fact, political ad buys are so intense there may be little space left for anything else.

Observers estimate that campaign spending on digital media ads will increase by seven times or more since 2008.

What has caught the attention of many grumbling online dwellers is the profusion of campaign ads on YouTube, including massive banners and 15- to 30-second pre-roll ads before selected videos.

“There has been incredibly strong demand for online video advertising inventory in targeted states, so there is virtually no 30-second inventory left for the fall,” says Rob Saliterman, head of Republican advertising outreach for Google, which owns YouTube. "Campaigns are buying it up for September and October and the first week of November.”

Kari Chisholm of Mandate Media, who is based in Portland and working on a Nevada congressional campaign, told the Las Vegas Sun, "We're all trying to run through the same door at the same time."

Fueling the spending binge of online advertising is the lack of available ad space on TV and radio in battleground states and local markets with hotly contested political races. "The TV inventory has been bought up and there's only so much direct mail you can send," explains Jim Walsh of DSPolitical.

You can't just take a sabbatical from YouTube to escape the onslaught. The presidential campaigns, leaving little to chance, have purchased trending topics, at $120,000 each, on Twitter to attract more viewers in what one blogger calls a "battle for eyeballs." Romney started the trend, but Obama has reportedly outspent him on the tactic.

Political Nanotargeting

Many people think of politics as a lot of hot air. It turns out politics may be more like rocket science.

Since the 2004 George W. Bush presidential campaign, Republican and Democratic political strategists have been using nanotargeting to reach and activate their political bases. To target ads, operatives pore over voting histories, housing values, recreational preferences, automobile ownership, TV viewership as well as favorite restaurants, drinks and websites.

Who knew that your zest for Arby's or the number of bedrooms in your home could drop hints about your political leanings?

In a recent piece in The New York Times, Thomas Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, probes this intensifying segmentation — and polarization — of the American electorate. Here are some tips Edsall offers in spotting stereotypical Republicans and Democrats:

  • Someone who reads The Washington Post or watches the Comedy Channel is more likely to be a Democrat. People who reads The Wall Street Journal or watches Country Music Television or the Golf Channel are probably Republicans.

  • Among the top 10 favorite TV shows of Republicans are "The Office," "The Big Bang Theory," "Desperate Housewives" and "The Biggest Loser."  Democrats prefer "Late Show with David Letterman," "PBS NewsHour," "House of Payne" and "60 Minutes."

  • McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's appeal to the political middle. You can spot the Republicans eating at Macaroni Grill, Outback Steakhouse, Arby's and Chick-fil-A, while the Democrats chow down at Popeye's, Dunkin' Donuts and Chuck E. Cheese.

  • The Democratic drinks of choice are cognac or Budweiser. Republicans favor light beers, Guinness and scotch.

  • Don't look for GOP presidential ads on "30 Rock" or Democratic ads on professional football games this fall.

Clearly these are generalized views of American political sympathies. But they are the basis for making critical, make-or-break advertising choices. As Edsall notes, "Incremental shifts among key constituencies — Hispanics, single white working class women and private-sector unionized employees — can be decisive."