By: Ken Liebeskind
Of all the newspaper advertising that was done this election year, one ad stands out — and it was a TV commercial. A spot for Matt Salmon, the Republican candidate for governor in Arizona, was streamed on three newspaper Web sites in the state, probably the first time a political ad of this sort has made it to the Web.
The spot was tested at the Web site of the East Valley Tribune in Mesa (http://www.eastvalleytribune.com). Then it rolled out at azcentral.com, a site affiliated with The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, and www.azstarnet.com, the site of the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson.
Salmon trailed by 3% to 4% in the polls before the streaming-video campaign began, but pulled even after the ads ran. The vote Tuesday ended with Salmon trailing by such a narrow margin that the result will not be confirmed until this week.
Streaming TV commercials online is not new, but has never been done by a political candidate before, according to New York-based Klipmart Corp., which provided the technology for the ad. The E-Voter Institute, a nonpartisan Washington trade group, said that campaigns have used video and animations in banners, but it was unaware of any previous use of streaming TV ad banners.
One reason Salmon used it was because it provides better viewer data than TV. “No station can tell me how many watch what percentage of a commercial on TV,” said Bill Caspare, president of DB Associates, the Scottsdale firm that bought the ads for Salmon. “With this, I know the penetration level and the energy it’s creating. And I know it reaches a profile of most likely people to vote.”
Both the time spent watching and clickthroughs were measured — with the clickthrough rate at 2.1%, which is considered high. The East Valley Tribune will use the clickthrough data to sell ads like this in the future, according to site Sales Director Ted Brown.
Caspare said he rotated three 30-second ads on the sites and negotiated key placements that enabled the ads to run exclusively in “above-the-fold” positions. Sometimes they ran as pop-ups at the top of the home page. Other times, they ran in banners on news or political pages. The East Valley Tribune campaign began Oct. 25 and ran through Election Day. The other campaigns ran the week before the election.
Why were newspaper sites used for the campaign? “We had the opportunity to go through ad networks for Arizona users,” Caspare said, “but azcentral.com picks up content from the Republic and is an enormously popular site. The high proficiency of potential voters at locations such as news and election pages is a benefit of all the newspaper sites. We were able to get a lot of mileage out of it.” He said the sites reached 80% of the voters over a period of time.
Some visitors, however, complained that the ad started streaming as soon as they reached the home page. Jim Rowley, vice president for market development at Tuscon Newspapers Inc., the business arm of the Daily Star and the Tucson Citizen, stated that, based on this feedback, “we will be revising our online-advertising acceptance policy … so that future ads are less intrusive to our Web audience.”