What Does AOL’s Move Say About The Rush Of Political Advertising To The Web?

AOL is offering a robust platform for political advertising, called the Politics hub, that will allow marketers to create targeted campaigns across AOL’s growing properties across the web. The move should be one of many as ad networks work to take advantage of spending by political groups.

According to Jeff Levick, President of AOL Global Advertising and Strategy, the goal is to create a clear resource in AOL for political marketers to use:

“Our Politics hub lets campaigns and issue advocacy groups take their messages directly to voters and key influencers in a proactive way through display advertising, and we make the on-boarding process something that is simple, easy and intuitive.”

AOL’s network has grown as the company has concentrated on acquisition of new content sites hitting specific niches and creating content for those sites to draw more users. The result is a network of more than 80 sites and an audience of more than 250 million.

One figure sure to attract political marketers is that according to AOL, 83 percent of voting age Americans use the Internet. The platform will feature display ads that will take advantage of geo-targeting, being able to focus down to the congressional district level, and make no mistake local is the key to all of this since political battles usually ebb and flow district to district. Combined with targeting AOL is hoping to leverage their more traditional user base combined with their in-display to provide a political marketplace that most sites short of Google won’t be able to match.

Political Advocacy Groups Have Adopted Social and Search, Will They Adopt Display?

Facebook has already seen an influx of political advertising because of the network’s ability to slice up user data by sex, age and other lifestyle interests allowing political marketers to more accurately select the type of audience they want to target.

“This cycle, we don’t have a major Republican candidate who isn’t asking about Facebook or isn’t doing it,” said Peter Pasi, the Executive Vice President of Republican online consulting firm Emotive LLC, in an TechPresident article.

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling to loosen limits on corporate spending coupled with the successful blueprint of online and social media outreach which helped vault President Obama into the White House in 2008, should create a large push in political dollars this year online. Republicans in general are taking a page out of President Obama’s playbook and investing in online outreach. The Tea Party activists found success on the conservative side with social networking activity. It helps stretch the advertising dollar.

As Lauren Dugan of SocialTimes looks at it:

“Dollar-for-dollar, Facebook advertising money might not directly equal more votes. But with larger budgets, politicians are able to do more with their online presence and ultimately increase their visibility, attractiveness and reputability on social networks like Facebook. New media, including social networks like Facebook, might not actually be all that “new” in terms of how politicians reach the people, with higher campaign budgets bringing in more supporters in the end.”

AOL is looking to be the next choice for those advertising dollars after Facebook as it can sell eyeballs that are reading very narrow content while at the same time bringing bring more strategy and campaign assistance to the table. It also has a slightly more conservative base than Facebook another point that AOL is banking on to win some dollars.

While Google still sits at the top of the political advertising food chain, AOL’s move highlights the trend of another traditional vertical moving away from traditional media in order to find green pastures online, thanks to rich metrics. As long as traditional media offers sketchy information about who is watching and who is engaging, online advertising markets will increasingly hold the edge.

About Mike Koehler

Mike Koehler is the New Media Director for Schnake Turnbo Frank | PR, the largest and oldest public relations firm in Oklahoma. Mike consults with clients about the best use of tools on the Internet, Web strategy and social media policy. Mike blogs regularly at www.smirknewmedia.com and is working on his first book to be published in 2010. Mike lives in Oklahoma City with his wife and three kids.

You can find Mike on Twitter: @mkokc.

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