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Swing State Campaigners Push for Online Advertising in 2012


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© by Jesse Knish Photography for GDC Online/Flickr Creative Commons

by Katharina Buchholz
appeared on KUNC.org 

TV isn’t the only place those annoying political ads are popping up this election season.

They’re also on YouTube, Hulu and Facebook, where campaigns are targeting younger potential voters, who don’t watch traditional TV.

More than $277,000 in online ads have targeted Colorado voters so far, according to Federal Election Commission data analyzed by the CU News Corps. That likely leaves out national online advertising for presidential candidates that doesn’t target specific states.

“All I get is political ads. I think I’ve gotten one or two other types of ads recently,”
said Brent Hebert, a junior at the University of Colorado. “Some are really long
and you can’t skip them. It’s almost gotten me to get AdBlock. Normally I am
like, ‘It’s OK, they paid for it,’ but it’s getting absurd.”

Political groups will spend an estimated $9.8 billion on advertisements this
election cycle, according to a report by advertising consultants Borrell Associates
Inc.The $159 million spent on online advertisements seem like a drop in the campaign bucket, but online spending is up 615 percent from the last election cycle.

Anupam Gupta, CEO at Mixpo Inc., a Seattle-based advertising company
specializing in online video, said that Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign set the
trend for political advertisers to go online.

“To be honest, political has been one of the sectors that has been kind of late to
the online game,” Gupta said. “Digital has become a key piece of any advertising
strategy, even political, and that’s why you are seeing more activity this year than
last time.”

The type of online advertising campaigners can’t get enough of is called pre-
roll advertising. It’s the videos users see when YouTube or Hulu tells them that
the “content will return shortly.”

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from the 6th Congressional
District, is using online video ads in his reelection campaign. Coffman for
Congress 2012 paid $9,000 to a Florida e-marketing firm in September.
Spokesman Owen Loftus said the campaign was using pre-roll as well as user-
activated banner video.

“This is a great way to reach voters. More and more people are using the Internet
to get news. More and more people are using it to watch videos online or TV
shows online,” Loftus said. “This is just another opportunity to reach them.”

Loftus said the right media mix was important for political advertisers.
Coffman’s campaign puts interactive video banners on news websites such
as Denverpost.com to reach older online users who don’t use YouTube as
frequently as younger voters.

Democratic opponent, Joe Miklosi, spent almost $3,000 on Facebook
advertising. Spokesman Ryan Hobart said that paid ads on the social media
platform helped create followers for the Miklosi Facebook page that number more
than 5,700.

“They are people who are very engaged and will share information with
people who friended them on Facebook,” Hobart said. “It’s a good way to give
information to people who are interested in the campaign and have them share it
with their wider network.”

He added that social media was not a substitute for more traditional means
such as TV ads, which reach people who might not have prior interest in the
campaign.

Colorado’s U.S. House candidates have spent more than $188,000 on online
advertisements and web video targeting Colorado this election season, according
to Federal Election Commission data.

Independent groups have spent almost $89,000. The biggest independent online
spender in the state was conservative super PAC FreedomWorks for America,
which spent $85,000 on web ads supporting Coffman and opposing challenger
Miklosi.

Campaigners like online advertising because it can target specific demographics
and interest groups.

“Online has always had good targeting capabilities that have only been getting
better,” Mixpo CEO Gupta said. “If you want to target based on what kind of
content they are reading, what kind of interest they might have, you can do that.”

Google AdWords charges 15 cents per play of a YouTube ad
targeted at 18- to 24-year-old Coloradans. Ads aimed at the state’s 35- to 44-
year-olds cost 17 cents, but promise only half of the maximum 40,000 views per
day viewers under 24 are supplying. Priced at 18 cents per play, ads targeting
Coloradans 45 to 54 provide only 8,000 views per day.

At an additional cost, advertisers have the option of attaching their message
to YouTube videos from a category such as sports, arts and entertainment or
pets and animals. They may also target viewers of specific interest groups, a
category YouTube users are assigned to based on videos they watched in the
past.

Interest group targeting, however, adds to the confusion of some viewers.
Marissa Sieck, a senior at the University of Colorado, said she was receiving
Spanish language ads.

“It’s interesting, depending on the different music I am listening to, the specific
ads that come with it,” the international affairs major said. “I listen to a lot of
Spanish and Latino music, which then turns into Spanish ads for Obama.”

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Explanatory Multimedia Reporting from CU Boulder Journalism Students
Swing State Campaigners Push for Online Advertising in 2012