As the 2010 Midterm Election heats up, so does the arena of political advertising. Candidates’ campaign budgets for purchasing media are beginning to balloon as races become more competitive across the country. Looking back to October 2008 then, candidate Barack Obama, became the first presidential candidate in the United States to purchase advertising space in the video game market. According to the Obama campaign’s pre-general election filing records, Obama spent $44,465.78 for online video game advertising with the Massive Corporation—a very affordable expenditure for a presidential campaign with deep coffers. Clearly not a keystone of the Obama media campaign, the video game advertising exploration was notable as well as novel however to the political world.
Certainly criticism exists. Granted the purchase was well timed (October 6-November 3, 2008) during a critical month of the election. The timing of the ad purchase also leads you to believe that the funds were used after ad purchases of a far higher priority took place. Regardless, the purchase begs several questions. Could that $44.5k been spent more efficiently on a television buy in a competitive swing-state market? The purchase was specifically targeted to include ten battleground states (Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Colorado, Indiana, Montana, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wisconsin). However, by law a citizen must be 18 years of age and registered to legally vote in the United States. What percentage of audience met those criteria in an online gaming community? Massive Corporation, the in-game ad firm places restrictions on various advertisements, such as tobacco or alcohol related ads due to the age restrictions of the specific games in question, providing further hesitation to legitimize the target voter demographic in question.
Interestingly, this week the Nielsen Company released the findings of a study regarding the effectiveness of in-game advertisements. This was the first time that a study of this kind was performed. The analysis included more than 100,000 U.S. households and focused on many of the same game titles that were purchased by the Obama campaign back in 2008. The study found that “in-game advertising increased household dollars spent on Gatorade by 24%, and offered a return on investment of $3.11.” These results are extremely energizing and enlightening. Whether or not political advertisements will be met with the same success as retail advertisements is still open for debate, research, and review. Another unknown is whether or not voters will see an increase in in-game ads in upcoming elections. Certainly the presence of in-game ads is directly proportional to the size and scope of a particular campaign budget. This being said, the past decade has been witness to an explosion of new mediums of political advertising, as well as the continuous growth of campaign funds. One thing is for sure, political advertising in future elections will continue to take voters by surprise by appearing in unexpected forms.
The Nielsen Company Study