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Obama Targets Pennsylvania Voters with Pure Persuasion Ads

BY Kate Kaye | Wednesday, April 16 2008

Senator Barack Obama's campaign has demonstrated a willingness to use local online advertising to reach voters in particular primary states. Now, with the important Pennsylvania primary around the corner, Obama for America is kicking it up a notch with new issue-based ads targeted to news sites in the state. Purely focused on persuasion, the ads mark a first for the Obama campaign when it comes to Web advertising, and stand in stark contrast to fundraising ads placed by the Clinton campaign.

"Which presidential candidate refuses money from oil company PACs and their Washington lobbyists?" inquires a display ad seen on Pennsylvania sites including Trib Total Media's and, owned by Philadelphia Media Holdings. The ads also launched yesterday on Pennsylvania TV station sites in WorldNow's Local Media Network.

The campaign hopes to reach voters feeling the pinch of high gas prices. Think lower and middle income people, blue collar workers, and older demographics prone to visiting hometown newspaper and TV station sites.

In the ad, Obama, Clinton and Republican presidential hopeful Senator John McCain are pictured alongside a list of high gas station prices; a fuel pump whizzes across the ad following the user's mouse movements.

"It's another example of how this [campaign] has been very aggressive in the types of ads it's running," suggested WorldNow Chief Revenue Officer Adam Gordon.

Scrolling over each candidate's image reveals different messages. Clinton and McCain are characterized as oil cash recipients, while Obama comes off as a clean candidate promoting clean energy.

"Hillary Clinton has taken more money from PACs and Washington lobbyists, including those for oil and gas, than anyone in the race. She voted for oil tax giveaways and against increasing alternative fuels," reads the ad. McCain is also panned for accepting contributions from oil industry PACs and lobbyists.

Obama is the right answer, according to the ad, which says, "Senator Obama is a leader in fighting for higher fuel efficiency standards, alternative fuels, and for the repeal of tax breaks for oil companies."

The ad links to a page on Obama's site focused on energy and the environment. Along with videos on energy-related topics, information on his record, and goals for legislation on renewable fuel and CAFE standards, the page features links to donate, sign up to volunteer, and click to visit the Pennsylvania for Obama page.

Until now, the Obama camp has steered away from persuasion-based messages in Web display ads, focusing instead on capturing supporters' contact information in a wide variety of display ads placed mainly through ad networks.

Even the campaign's locally-targeted ads have included specific calls to action, encouraging users to vote early, find polling places or register to vote. For instance, one ad targeted to Pennsylvania Web users in March urged them to update their voter registration to ensure they are eligible to vote in the Keystone State's Democratic primary.

However, expandable multimedia ads seen on Texas and Ohio news site homepages before the primaries in those states served a dual purpose. Embedded video from TV spots was used to persuade voters to vote for Obama based on issues like the War in Iraq and ethics reform. But the ads also prompted voters to find early voting locations in Texas and Ohio.

According to Gordon, the Pennsylvania Web media buy is smaller in scale in terms of ad impressions, inventory and overall footprint than what the campaign bought through WorldNow on Texas and Ohio sites. The Obama campaign also ran pre-roll video ads on Pennsylvania news sites through the network recently. "It's nice to see a candidate carve out specific money for TV station sites," he said.

Many of John McCain's display ads, particularly those featuring embedded videos, have been intended both to persuade voters and to get them to provide contact information such as an e-mail address. Before Obama's new energy-oriented ads, McCain's campaign had been the only campaign to consistently employ messaging based on issues throughout the primary season, including Iraq and pork-barrel spending.

Clinton's campaign, meanwhile, has been risk-averse in its limited use of online display advertising. Ads for the New York Senator seen last month were strictly aimed at scoring online donations, urging site visitors to "Help Make History" by contributing $50 to the campaign.