How to Leverage Online Political Advertising

This week we read a variety of articles that discussed how to use online advertising when targeting particular demographics for a variety of purposes. And as we read in these articles, it is all about targeting particular niches. With this in mind, here are the major takeways I got from this week’s reading:

Long-Tail Nanotargeting

Josh Koster — managing partner of Chong + Koster in Washington, D.C. — was quite prolific in this week’s readings, starting off in this article discussing his involvement in online advertisement for Senator Franken’s campaign. It was this article that brought to light the most important theme: when doing online advertising, it’s all about identifying niches and spending your hard-earned dollars on targeting the specific demographic that needs to hear your voice and persuaded to take action. This major adage is vital to any advocacy campaign, in both budget consideration and message creation. With only the fraction of the budget it took to run an offline campaign, Koster was able to run 8.5 million impressions and 10,0-00 direct voter interactions.

Nanotargeted Pressure

Again, Koster raises his voice to impart wisdom on the need to be specific in online advertising targeting. In this case, he used online advertising in Facebook and Google to target media employees specifically in the Lou Dobbs’ scandal. What’s great about this article is how Koster diversified his online advertising — not only in locale, with Facebook and Google — but also in messaging. Using titles like, “Hey Soledad O’Brian, why don’t you ask Loud Dobbs what it’s like to Latino in America” was key in creating the scandal about the scandal.

VA Senate Major Leader to Dem Candidate: You Will Use Web Ads

The major takeaway here is one that is often employed in the political arena: targeting swing voters to attract them to the other side. Since the impetus was to bring those on the right to the left side of the isle, Koster employed ‘source amnesia’ to target swing voters, as he states:

“We we had a singular article from a very creidle source that gave us a lot of ammunition, and because we could link through to the original source material, it gave us license to make stronger clians that normal.” Essentially speaking, the Democratic candidate used intel on the opponent to bolster their reputation by linking to articles that laid down the foundation of how incredulous the opponent was. On the flipside, strategists led Democratic-leaning precinct voters to more positive ads about Marsden that claimed the candidate as the most well-respected candidate and a “start choice.”

This is probably the largest takeaway I got from all the readings combined beyond simple nano-targeting: the idea that in one’s online marketing, you do not have to link to your personal website but can either link to information outside that will drive a particular demographic to think differently.

For my clients, we typically create online ads and have them link to that client’s issue advocacy website for more information. But what if instead the action we wanted to take was not simply to inform them about one position but rather poke holes in the opposing team’s? By linking ads to negative stories about the opposition written by others, advocates do not pay attention to whom sent them there but rather the information they receive.  As Julian Sanchez writes, “Web surfers tend to experience ‘source amnesia’ — they’ll remember the article and the negative claims about your opponent, but most people won’t remember what link they click to get there.”

Arguably, there’s a sense this could be dirty politics and wrong. However, I do not see why it is unfair to use an opposition’s message against them. As a good friend of mine once said, if you don’t want anyone to know you did something, then don’t do it in the first place.


About digipolitics

Just your average Johns Hopkins University grad student learning how to leverage the online arena to engage potential advocates for issue advocacy campaigns.
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