Saturday, November 27, 2010

It pays to advertise

Managing Warren Mosler's Senate campaign was my first experience with buying advertising for a client. Because of budget limitations, we confined ourselves mostly to online advertising. Mosler ran for office as a way of promoting his message of jobs and prosperity and driving traffic to his website seemed like the best way to do that.

Traditionally, online advertising links to your home page, but as ours was a campaign of ideas, I decided to link our advertising to the issues page. So far as I know, nobody else has done this. It was my view that as an Independent candidate, Mosler would not have the immediate "brand" identity that a Democrat or Republican would have. Therefore it was necessary that voters have the opportunity to learn about his proposals.

At first we advertised with four media companies, the Hartford Courant, Journal Inquirer, Waterbury Republican American and the Connecticut Media Group. Monitoring our site statistics, I was surprised by the results. Most of our money was spent on the Connecticut Media Group, which owns several newspapers in southwest Connecticut. This gave us the worst results, fewer readers clicking on our ads, and not spending much time on our site when they did click through. Why was this? Was it because of the placement? Or was it because southwest Connecticut has never been receptive to Independent candidates? In 2008 Nader got his best votes in the first, second, and fifth congressional districts. Voters in the third and fourth voted overwhelmingly for Obama, with McCain at a very distant second, and Nader hardly visible. So maybe readers of the Connecticut Media Group were not clicking on our ads simply because they are not interested in Independent candidates. We later bought ads on just two blogs from the Connecticut Media Group, Ken Dixon's Blogorama and Brian Lockhart's Political Capitol. We spent $128 for our placement on these blogs and got almost as many hits as buying 150,000 impressions across the entire newspaper group.

We bought a space on the homepage on the Waterbury Republican American. This also preformed very poorly for us, which stunned me (Mosler would get his highest vote in Waterbury). Waterbury is the home of the Independent Party of Connecticut, they have several elected local officials. I expected this to be our best placement, but we got fewer hits than our other venues. Why? Was it because Independent voters are not online?

My experience with Independent activists is that they are not interested in blogs. Some are active on facebook; but otherwise they do not seem interested in social media. They were more interested in talk radio and public access cable television. There are several Independent public access cable TV talk shows, they have been very active in taking advantage of this medium. But they have not been active online. Indeed, it was only at my suggestion that they put up an Independent Party web site.

We did do two advertising inserts in the print edition of the Waterbury Republican American, in a Saturday edition and another on the Sunday before the election. This was possible because of the donated labor of Connecticut's celebrated graphic artist and Photoshop genius, Carmine Capobianco. Judging by our site statistics, it was a success, generating a nice spike coming in on organic search.

We also puchased 100,000 impressions on the Journal Inquirer site, a group of newspapers located mostly in towns across central and northern Connecticut. The Journal Inquirer did very well for us, bringing in a steady flow of clicks by readers who stayed on our site a minute or more. We also did better in towns where the Journal Inquirer has newspapers than other towns. Whether this is because their readers were online looking at our ad, or whether it was from our phone banking effort into these towns I could not say. Our phone banking effort was directed to reinforce our advertising.

Our best results came from our advertisements on two of the Hartford Courant's blogs, Capitol Watch and CT Confidential. Not only did we receive a steady stream of hits, readers from the Courant blogs stayed two and even three minutes and looked at several pages. However, for a fraction of the cost of the Courant blogs, CorrenteWire supplied a stream of clicks of readers who also stayed two or three minutes. On a per-click basis this works out to $6.47 per click for the Courant blogs compared to $1.48 for CorrenteWire. Obviously the blog represented better value, except that CorrenteWire's readers are spread out across the country, whereas almost all the Courant's readers are in Connecticut.

Is this because blogs are a better venue for political advertising, or because CorrenteWire is a blog that supports emergent party candidates?

We also bought print advertising in Connecticut Cruise News. This was an excellent fit for us as Warren Mosler makes the world's coolest car. Connecticut has a vibrant cruise culture and Mosler went to many of their events, reaching out to a very non-political group and recieving a warm reception.

We did some radio advertising on a Carribbean station in Bridport. If I had it to do again I would skip advertsing in the Connecticut Media Group and put the money into advertising on talk radio, where the Independent base is to be found.

Normally I would not discuss the details of a client's advertising campaign, but all the details have been filed with the Federal Election Commission. Political budgets are not confidential.

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