Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

The Online Political Advertising Trinity: Google, Facebook...and AOL?

BY Colin Delany | Wednesday, August 18 2010

Cross-published from Epolitics.com

Maybe not yet, but AOL would certainly like political professionals to start thinking that way -- with Google monopolizing search advertising and Facebook dominating the social space, AOL wants to own political display (banner) ads through its Advertising.com platform. Judging from conversations with AOL staff at a launch reception for the company's new political advertising dashboard, AOL sees what Google and Facebook have done in the political space and sees an opportunity to build a new constituency for online display advertising, something that campaigns have tended to drop in favor of search and social advertising in recent years.

What's AOL offering? A combination of the broad and the specific: sites involved with Advertising.com reach a huge swath of online readers in the U.S. (more than any other content ad network), allowing AOL to put political ads in front of big pool of potential donors, volunteers and supporters, but crucially the company also has enough demographic data to let advertisers target all the way down to the Congressional district level. AOL's political site pushes display ads for everything from fundraising to rapid response, and also includes guides to effective banner campaigns and to the specifics of their ordering system.

Will people buy it? In some ways, display advertising is both blessing and curse -- a blessing because it's easy to explain to political consultants and candidates, a curse because banner advertising rarely lived up to its perceived potential in the earlier days of the web. AOL's new venture does have advantages over past generations of display ads, though, in part because of the success of Google and Facebook advertising -- over the past two cycles, campaigns have become more and more used to the idea that they should spend money on internet ads.

And while AOL's ability to target ads by Congressional district is useful and can only be roughly approximated on Google and Facebook, the company's other demographic info may turn out to be just as attractive -- i.e., you want to reach moms? They'll give you moms. You want Hispanics? They'll give you Hispanics. Again, this is targeting that can be approximated on Google and Facebook, based on what people are searching for (Google) or the interests they've listed (Facebook), but AOL promises to deliver it directly.

So I bet we'll see quite a few campaigns and outside groups try AOL this cycle, assuming the company's sales reps do their jobs and spread the word (thinking about it, it almost seems weird that political display ads are so relatively rare). But whether or not this platform can become the third leg of a political advertising stool will depend on results -- and AOL may find the ROI of Google Ads tough to beat.

cpd

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

First POST: Spoilers

How the GOP hasn't fixed its tech talent gap; the most tech-savvy elected official in America, and the most tech-savvy state-wide candidate; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Hot Spots

How Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is making inroads in China; labor protests among Uber drivers spread to more cities; new data about the prevalence of online harassment; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Reminders

Why the RNC hasn't managed to reboot how Republican campaigns use voter data; new ways of using phone banking to get out the vote; how the UK's digital director is still ahead of the e-govt curve; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Patient Zero

Monica Lewinsky emerges with a mission to fight cyber-bullying; Marc Andreessen explains his political philosophy; tech donors to MayDay PAC get pushback from Congressional incumbents; and much, much more. GO

monday >

First POST: Front Pagers

How Facebook's trending topics feed is wrecking political news; debating the FBI's need for an encrypted phone "backdoor"; democratizing crisis data; and much, much more. GO

More