The evolution of the Internet in political advertising is a relatively recent phenomenon. However, it is certainly not unknown. The rise of Internet prominence in the campaign arena brought a flood of discussion across the media, academia, political professional circles—and of course, the blogs–regarding its impact.
Reflecting back on the past decade or so it would be difficult to forget (or dismiss) the rapidly increasing presence of the Internet in the campaign advertising world. Jesse Ventura is generally given credit for pioneering the idea of political organizing via the Internet during his successful 1998 campaign for Minnesota governor. In 2000, Arizona Senator (and 2000 presidential candidate), John McCain, raised record amounts of Internet donations for his campaign. [1.] “In the week after the senator from Arizona won the New Hampshire primary that year, supporters flooded his campaign website with $2.2 million in contributions.” [2.] George Bush also received record Internet fundraising in 2000. TIME Magazine reported, “In 2000, George W. Bush revolutionized campaign fund raising—and shattered existing records—by creating a muscular network of “bundlers,” each of whom committed to bring in $100,000, $200,000 or more from friends and associates.”[3.] In 2004, Howard Dean would again shatter previous Internet fundraising records through creative innovations in online advertising and soliciting for donations.
Not surprisingly, by the 2008 election cycle, political advertising and Internet fundraising had become the norm for sending e-mail updates, event notices, pleas for fundraising, volunteer sign-ups, poll location information and local supporter organization. By the end of the first quarter of 2008, over a million people had donated more than $230 million to the Obama Campaign… undeniably the envy of Hillary Clinton’s camp. [4.] Obama had recruited hordes of donors and likely voters via the Internet through a highly modern and innovative advertising campaign.
One thing that these historical examples of political Internet solicitation have in common is that they all revolve around major political campaigns; making its debut during a statewide governor race and then quickly ascending to the national level to play a role in competitive presidential bids—a place where the Internet is extremely useful in reaching voters across the nation. However, today Internet advertising has begun to mature as a political advertising medium. Its role in national campaigns will only increase. Similarly, its function in local and statewide fundraising is also developing rapidly. This is not limited to candidate races, issue groups and action committees are also gaining an increased share from Internet advertising.
Following this trend, on July 22, 2010, America Online launched the AOL Advertising Politics hub. MediaWeek explains, “the AOL Advertising Politics hub (www.advertising.aol.com/politics) …is designed to serve as a sales tool and do-it-yourself ad purchasing platform for political advertisers.”[5.] This site will allow media buyers to easily navigate the vastly fragmented Internet audience and target likely voters and donors. It will also allow small organizations to act directly on the grassroots level and bypass traditional marketing firms and buying agencies. With an ever increasing role in the use of Internet advertising and the 2010 midterm election cycle now entering the General Phase, it will be interesting to watch the development of web solicitation. Going further, political advertising professionals and the general voting population alike will almost certainly see some form of record setting Internet advertising and fundraising during the coming campaign seasons.
- Drinkard, Jim and Lawrence, Jill. “Online, off and running: Web a new campaign front,” USA TODAY, 7/14/2003
- Barnes, James A. “Online Fundraising Revolution,” National Journal, 4/19/2008
- Tumulty, Karen. “Obama’s Viral Marketing Campaign,” TIME Magazine, 7/5/2007
- Barnes, 2008.
- Shields, Mike. “AOL Launches AOL Advertising Politics,” MediaWeek, 7/22/2010