Thursday, September 23, 2010

Is There More to Online Ads Than Meets the Eye?

Summary: A new study suggests that online campaign ads might be more effective for voter persuasion than previously thought.

Last year, we mentioned how some political scientists were beginning to think that campaign ads were going to go the way of the dodo. We challenged that theory.

From the post:

“…we’ve mentioned how little beats voter-to-voter contact in spreading a campaign’s message and winning support. That means candidates have to rely on volunteers to make phone calls and canvass neighborhoods, as well as hopeful donors to finance it all. And just like the disappearance of yard signs would scare a campaign’s donors and volunteers, so would the disappearance of TV spots in a national, statewide, or even congressional election."

And thus, we made the following prediction about the future of campaign advertising:

“…more campaign ads will be produced, but perhaps seen less on television. With the online age, more and more ads will be emailed, blogged, and seen on YouTube than TV. It will be a more cost effective way to communicate with supporters that expect to see an operational campaign producing ads.”

However, a new study by Global Strategy Group finds that online campaign advertising might be good for more than engaging one’s supporters.

From an email blast they sent about the study:

“…likely Democratic primary voters exposed to television and online ads viewed our candidate, Chris Kelly for Attorney General, more favorably than those exposed only to television ads. Telephone polling of voters in two media markets uncovered a 19 point lift in Kelly's overall favorability ratings in Santa Barbara, where voters saw only television advertising, and a larger 23 point lift in Palm Springs where voters saw both television and online advertising. The study also showed a lift in favorability, recall and vote share among the campaign's key target audiences who were exposed to the TV and online ads.

The results of this study offer the first real evidence that campaigns can count on the web, not only to raise money and drive voters to their sites, but also to help build their brand, get their message out and positively influence voters. It is clear that online advertising will continue to play a key role in political communications in the coming years.”

Now it’s difficult to say what exactly caused the “point lift” in Palm Springs. It could have easily been attributable to more word-of-mouth communication between supporters and their friends and family. After all, supporters who see the online advertising might have been more inclined to tell their immediate contacts about Kelly than supporters who did not.

Nevertheless, the results speak for themselves. A greater online presence is certainly beneficial to a campaign, and online advertising can bolster that presence.

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