Microsoft's Bing Spends Big to Buy Politico On Election Day

Exxon Mobil, United Healthcare and Railroad Norfolk Southern Opt for Online Presence Around the Vote

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Microsoft's search engine Bing spent big to own Politico on election day to drive political junkies to the Bing Elections "real-time news, results, polls, and social trends."

How big? As much as $80,000 for the day, according to Politico's chief revenue officer Roy Schwartz, compared to $35,000 for a normal day.

The Bing Elections effort launched Oct. 30, and Politico is a political editorial partner along with Real Clear Politics, The Cook Political Report, Huffington Post and the Associated Press, according to a Bing press release. Bing also calls Facebook and Twitter "exclusive partners," providing social-insights data. Bing has also branded its Twitter profile page with election-related imagery and messaging.

"We have a very focused and targeted [marketing communications] campaign in effect for Bing Elections that includes many partnerships, including Politico," a Microsoft spokesperson told Ad Age in an email. "We're partnering with Politico in many ways, including sponsoring tonight's Politico election night party, content distribution and advertising elements."

Recently the search brand has sprung a series of queries related to the presidential election on its social-media followers. Many of the sometimes silly, sometimes serious election questions Bing has posted to Facebook have elicited a large number of comments, a key metric for brands on the social site. "Which candidate worked at a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop?" asked Bing on Facebook recently, spurring more than 1,000 comments. The answer: President Barack Obama.

While Bing's 12 days of election-related trivia is clearly aimed at getting consumers to think of the search engine as a good place to go for political information, the companion effort on Politico appeared to be targeted to the more politically savvy. Bing's campaign promised up-to-the-minute election results to Politico visitors, along with visitors to The Huffington Post, where Bing Elections ads were also running.

According to one digital political ad buyer, the Politico home page typically is a premium placement and is often purchased by large corporations and trade groups hoping to reach Beltway decision-makers. Politico has some other high-profile advertisers on the site today, including Toyota, which is touting production of its 25th millionth vehicle in North America.

Bing wasn't the only big-spender on election day, typically huge for news organizations covering the election. Norfolk Southern, a freight railroad company with 30,000 employees, also bet on a big home-page takeover buy to get in front of the politically minded Tuesday. The 24-hour WashingtonPost.com campaign was part of an awareness effort targeting federal and state policy makers, along with other influential government types, according to Jacqui Hannigan, VP-media for RP3 agency, which handled the creative, media-planning, and media-buying work.

Norfolk's home-page takeover was part of a broader year-long deal with the Washington Post that was inked back in 2011, she said. The deal also included a home-page takeover ad on Super Tuesday. The overall campaign has been running since August and includes a TV ad that can be viewed by clicking on the WashingtonPost.com ad.

"A lot of the discourse that is aligned with the election is in line with what Norfolk Southern cares about: the economy and jobs and prosperity," she said. The campaign is also intended to emphasize the role that freight railroads play in the U.S. economy.

Other corporations tying their brands to the election Monday include Exxon Mobil, which was sponsoring CNN.com's Election Center and running ads on the National Journal home page, as well as United Healthcare, which was running on the NYTimes.com's Politics section home page.

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