Online advertising is a key part of campaigning

December 18, 2010

Online advertising is essential for union and political campaigns – especially as they heat up or get closer to important milestones (e.g. calling of the election, a vote in parliament, a strike or election day itself).

Blue = Brumby, Red = Baillieu. Source: Google Trends, search traffic for 2010

A case in point is the graph above. It shows the search traffic for 2010 – the number of people in Australia that searched for either Brumby or Baillieu. It clearly shows that in the lead up to the election, there was a massive spike in searching for Baillieu, and only a small increase for Brumby.

Each search for Baillieu (and Brumby) represented an opportunity for a political campaign to run search ads on Google that link to a specific campaign landing page.

Blue = Julia Gillard, Red = Tony Abbott. Source: Google Trends, search traffic for 2010

What’s more, your online advertising (not just on Google, but Facebook, Yahoo or Bing) can micro-target specific key words, geographic locations or demographics.

For example, local political candidates could put search terms up for local schools or landmarks in the area – with the search ads linking back to a specific page on your website with more information about your policies on schools. Political parties should also use keywords for news and policy search terms. During the Federal Election, for example, Labor could have bought ads for search terms involving “leaks” or other key words associated with Laurie Oakes’ leak stories.

This screenshot shows how ads can be targeted for specific search terms - in this case, Obama.

For union campaigns, your search ads can use keywords for employers that you may have a dispute with. For example, during a dispute with a university, I arranged for Google and Facebook ads to appear when current and prospective students searched for that university – linking to a website that had information about why staff at the university were on strike. A leaked email revealed that senior university managers were deeply frustrated by this tactic – and I can confirm we got hundreds of unique visitors from these ads.

Online advertising is fairly cheap – if they are keyword ads. Banner advertising on large websites like HeraldSun.com.au or TheAge.com.au is much more expensive (in the order of $15,000 for a week or two) – and best done only for major national or state campaigns. Local political campaigns should definitely put some money into online ads, most of which are pay-per-click. This means that you only pay when someone clicks on the ad.

Most online ads of this sort let you set your own daily or weekly budget, so you get to set how much you want to spend without having it go over budget. This gives you a lot of control – and most online ad services give you daily, or live, updates on how well the ads are doing and how many people are clicking on them. (Don’t forget to link your ads to your Google Analytics.)

There is a myth that pay-per-click can be manipulated by hostile forces. For example, hostile managers or opposing political operatives, who repeatedly click on your ads, resulting in you paying for each click! However, services like Google and Facebook have safeguards for abuse like this.


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