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Google pitches political services at Republicans (and flies)

August 21, 2010 - 12:28 pm

The room is filled with as many flies as it is political strategists.

It’s the second day of the California Republican Party’s fall convention at the Manchester Hyatt in downtown San Diego. Google hired out the “Gallery Room” just behind the main building—$700 just to rent a projector—to deliver a presentation on its array of YouTube-related political services, YouChoose 2010.

“As we all know, in the 2008 election, Barack Obama really brought the digital strategy to the center of attention—he did a great job using a lot of different resources through Google and across online media,” Jennifer Wasson, a YouTube strategist with Google, says in the opening of her presentation. “However, since then, the Republican party has actually taken the lead, so with [Bob] McDonnell and Scott Brown, I mean, they are now being more strategic and we’re seeing a lot of headway gained here.”

Wasson, who has been assigned to the Republican party this election cycle, is referring to the conservative candidates who won in the Virginia governor and Massachusetts Senate races in the two years since Obama’ s victory.

As notable as those candidates’ web presences might have been, this workshop has a low, low hit count. Only about a dozen conventioneers turn up to listen to  the presentation, which is postponed 20 minutes while party staff try to solve the insect situation: A dozen or so flies, fat ones, pulling maneuvers in front of the projector. There is no solution and Wasson makes the best of it.

The presentation begins with illustrating the disparity between how voters get their information and how campaigns are spending their advertising budgets. According to Google’s research: 68 percent of voters and 100 percent of “policy influencers” use the internet to research the issues, yet only 1.6 percent of political advertising is spent on the web.

Wasson reaffirms the obvious: Obama was among the first to recognize what the web can do for a campaign, dedicating 4 percent of his budget toward online communication. Now Republicans have upped the ante—McDonnell spent 7.5 percent and Brown spent 10 percent, she says.

Here’s what YouTube’s offering this cycle:

  • An optimized “politician channel.”
  • A new town hall system that makes it easier to submit questions and for the politician to respond.
  • Surgical strike-style advertising: a candidate can narrow her targets to a zip code. To maximize spending, the candidate can choose the exact times she wants the ads to run.
  • Four kinds of advertising: promoted search results (separate from the regular results);  web ads; text on videos; and 15 and 30-second “In Stream” ads, which are pretty much the same as commercials. (The only price that came up was for these In Stream ads: $4-10 per thousand impressions.)
  • Wasson highlights the opportunities there are to place your advertisements (or attacks) on content related to an opponent. (Since the ad buys are on an automatic auction system, all a candidate has to do is outbid her opponent by a penny.)

Wasson identifies Carly Fiorina as one of the candidate making the best use out of her YouTube politician channel.

As for candidates in lower-ticket, less-funded, longer-shot races, Wassen explains that if a community college-produced viral video can save a failing tongue-scraper company

Writers Note: Certain paragraphs have been edited for clarity and coherency. These often suffer when one is blogging from a convention press room.

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