Presidential elections always represent sea changes in the use of marketing tools (including local marketing tools). The Internet is an increasingly big part of it. Mostly, it is used for raising money.
This time around, it has also been exciting to see thousands of people “request” in-person appearances by candidates via Eventful; to watch the McCain campaign use Topix to reach rural voters; and to see the Obama campaign use Centro’s local network to place geotargeted, online video ads.
I checked in with my longtime colleague Karen Jagoda, who runs the nonpartisan E-Voter Institute, to see what she’s excited about. Jagoda reminded me that it is more than a cliché that all politics are local. Some of the newest, local-oriented innovations have included:
• Encouraging people to use campaign Internet tools to organize house parties to watch the debates or special speeches;
• Virtual phone banks where volunteers could download phone numbers to call and
functionality to report back on results (all from their own house);
• Online contests to win a chance to be with the candidate, which included people everywhere;
• Online tools for people to engage others in their community to contribute, volunteer for
phone banks and walk neighborhoods;
• Making it easy for people to find local volunteer events from the Web site.
Jagoda feels one of the biggest changes is the use of online video at the local level. “Obama created his own YouTube channel, which allowed him to post videos focused on very specific locations,” she says. “People uploaded material and generated their own local following, but probably not as much broke through as some might have expected.”
There was also an interesting effect with TV advertising. A lot of it got more play on the Internet than on the local station. McCain especially created niche ads that were ostensibly for TV, but more intended for their Internet audience (and the press).
But some things remain the same. The E-Voter Institute survey of political consultants found that the Internet remains a second-tier way of reaching rural and blue-collar voters, she says. To reach out to these groups, the campaigns used fund-raising pitches for $5 as ways to include as many low income people as possible. Some of these people are students and retired people who are likely voters, she says.
Have local Web sites benefited from the largesse of the campaigns? Jagoda says it is too soon to tell.