"There are 500,000 elected officials in the U.S. With the advances
we've made in geo-targeting, we think this will be part of every
political campaign in the country, as well as issue campaigns,"
said Peter Greenberger, Google's director of election and issue
Barack Obama and John McCain spent about $19 million on online
ads in their campaigns for president, about 4% of the $450 million
spent on all media, according to OpenSecrets.org. Google took $7.5
million of the $14 million the Obama campaign spent online,
according to ClickZ analysis of campaign filings. The McCain
campaign spent $4.65 million online, also heavily concentrated on
None of this is lost on a generation of political pros looking
to apply the lessons of 2008 to the political struggles ahead.
"People saw what Obama did, and they are adapting to how the world
has changed and using his techniques," Mr. Greenberger said.
Rebecca Donatelli, Mr. McCain's online campaign manager, said she
sees search, once primarily the domain of national and statewide
campaigns, playing a bigger role in local races, where budgets are
tighter and candidates more obscure.
"If you are a candidate for House of Delegates in Virginia, you
are not going to rise organically to the top of the [search] page,"
she said. "Search is the game."
Google doesn't yet offer targeting based on congressional
districts, but with ZIP code and city targeting, politicians and
advocacy groups can cobble together a reasonable approximation of a
Google's political group consists of Mr. Greenberger in D.C. and
four salespeople in New York. With groups mobilizing to advocate
for and against various remedies to the financial crisis, they
expect to stay busy. The 2008 campaign ended Nov. 4, but issue
spending hasn't: $42 million was spent on TV in the month after the
election, according to TNS Media's Campaign Analysis Group.
The financial crisis has been a boon for political advertising.
Instead of using the web to sell cars, automakers are using it to
sell a political idea: that they need a federal bailout to weather
"If you are going to try and get smart on the auto bailout, you
are not going to get that from a 30-second spot; you are going to
get your research online," said TNS Campaign Analysis Group Chief
Operating Officer Evan Tracey.
In fact, Ford Motor Co.'s campaign to improve its image, "The Ford Story," is the first Ford
campaign run entirely online, said Scott Kelly, digital-marketing
manager. The "Ford Story" site was built in five days in November.
"We are trying to use search to change and shape the opinion of
people of Ford rather than convert people who are in the market
[for a new car]," Mr. Kelly said.
The search terms Ford has bought include "Detroit bailout," "Big
Three bailout," "automotive bailout" and "fuel-efficient
Fortunately for Google, there are well-funded forces opposing
federal assistance for the automakers, such as former House
Majority Leader Dick Armey's Freedom Works.
Freedom Works has been spending heavily on Google, sometimes to
target districts of more fiscally conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats
to persuade them to vote against spending federal money to keep
"If there are certain members we want to target, where a member
of Congress is on the fence, we can target those areas," said
Thomas Keeley, Freedom Works online marketing coordinator. The
group has been on the losing end of the bailout debate but
considers its campaigns successful based on the number of referrals
to microsites such as nowallstreetbailout.com.