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Clinton Web Ads Dry Up as Obama Showers Texas and Ohio with Video Ads

BY Kate Kaye | Friday, February 29 2008

Senator Barack Obama wants voters in Texas and Ohio to vote early, and his campaign is running huge video-enabled billboard ads to promote the convenient option. Yet, despite a desperate need to beat her Democratic opponent in the two states in Tuesday's primaries, Senator Hillary Clinton's camp doesn't seem to be running Web display ads at all.

"Have you tried the convenience of early voting? Find your early-vote location," prompts the expandable Obama ads placed on local Texas and Ohio broadcast station and newspaper sites.

Like some other display and video-enabled ads placed by '08 presidential campaigns thus far, the new Obama ads serve a dual purpose of persuasion and direct response. In this case, embedded TV spots mentioning issues like healthcare, the war in Iraq and middle class tax cuts act as persuasion tools while a big, red "Go" button takes users to a form to find the nearest place to vote early. Both Texas and Ohio allow voters to cast their ballots before primary day at locales like the county clerk's office.

Former Republican hopeful Mitt Romney and shoo-in GOP nominee Senator John McCain have also run video-enabled ads throughout the 2008 election season. Romney was the first candidate campaign to run video overlay ads.

The Obama ads are running on four Ohio sites and 12 Texas sites in WorldNow's Ohio and Texas ad networks. They're also running on ten newspaper Web sites including Ohio's CantonRep.com, DallasNews.com and MySanAntonio.com. The ads launched February 26 and will run through primary day, March 4.

"It's really about the footprint, to make sure they're conveying his message to anyone and everyone who can go to the polls legally," said WorldNow Chief Revenue Officer Adam Gordon. WorldNow's Local Media Network allows advertisers to target video and display ads across its network of local TV sites.

Though Gordon would not reveal the number of ad impressions purchased or the amount spent on the effort, he did tell ClickZ, "These are premium units designed for maximum exposure," implying the campaign purchased a significant number of impressions at a relatively high CPM.

For WorldNow, the turnaround was rapid. "It was a really timely campaign. They negotiated and bought within a couple days notice; we went through the order and literally the next day they started creating ads for us," said Gordon. Local media ad firm Centro placed the ads on behalf of the Obama campaign, and designed the ad creative in-house.

A glowing blue sliver seen on the homepages of sites like Waco Tribune-Herald's WacoTrib.com and The Akron Beacon Journal's Ohio.com reads "Change We Can Believe In," enticing users to expand the Flash-based billboard unit to view a video message from the candidate.

Several creative versions including a variety of embedded video spots were developed for the campaign. One Texas-aimed video centers on losing jobs overseas, the "misguided" Iraq war and the chance for "a nation healed, an America that believes again." The other, a black and white ad, notes the candidate's anti-war stance, his role in congressional ethics reform and the potential to repair the country's poor perception internationally.

Another Ohio-targeted creative features a video touching on affordable healthcare, Iraq, ending tax breaks for companies moving jobs overseas, and cutting taxes for the middle class.

The ads drive users to landing pages featuring a close-up video message from Obama, in which he suggests people submit their street address, city, zip code and e-mail to retrieve information about the closest early voting location. Texas voters are treated to slightly different messaging. "I need you to do more than just vote," says the candidate, explaining that lone star voters are asked to caucus in addition to casting ballots, a process sometimes referred to as "The Texas Two-step."

"This is the first high impact 'push-down' campaign" WorldNow has placed "and it's for a political candidate," said Gordon. "Not only is [Obama] trying to tap into the younger demographic, but he's being very fresh and forward-looking."

Gordon stressed the significance of the network effect in facilitating the campaign's broad regional media buy. "It speaks to the need for aggregation," he said. "That's why you see a big trend in the industry moving towards partnerships to scale. So when a client needs to create a campaign... we are no more difficult to deal with than one national partner. Aggregation empowers advertisers to work with local stations the same way they partner with a national URL site."

While Obama's campaign has run display advertising throughout the primary season, display ads placed by the Clinton camp have been rare. Sources familiar with Clinton's online campaign say it is not currently running display advertising on the Web. Indeed, an ad tracked on Eau Claire-based LeaderTelegram.com by The Media
Trust Company around the February 19 Wisconsin primary may be among the last display ads served on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

Still, time remains before the March 4 Texas and Ohio primaries. A call to the Clinton campaign was not returned in time for publication.

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