Spot Runner Enters Political Arena, Offers Low-Cost Ads
The new initiative is likely have the biggest impact at the state and local level, where campaigns often lack the budgets to spend heavily on TV advertising, if at all.
For $500 to $2,000 (excluding media costs), candidates can choose from a library of 20 customizable ads to craft spots for campaigns ranging from the school board to the U.S. Congress. Candidates can add their own photos and information to the templates.
Using its "Geo-Voter Targeting" technology, combining political district maps with local TV availability, voter and donor data, and other demographic information, Spot Runner says it can target ads down to the level of individual neighborhoods.
"More and more elections are going toward micro-targeting, so whenever someone can get a leg up by using new technology platforms, they're trying to do so," said Kurt Weinsheimer, general manager of local marketing services for Spot Runner.
TV air time varies by market, but a two-week local campaign could cost as little $2,500, according to Weinsheimer.
Candidates can also tap the Spot Runner political ad service to develop and run ads on radio and online.
In connection with the new offering, Spot Runner has assembled a bipartisan advisory board of high-profile political figures including former Senator Bill Bradley, D-N.J., Democratic political consultant Bob Shrum and Republican strategists Mike Murphy and Dan Schnur.
In a teleconference this week, Shrum called the new Spot Runner service "potentially revolutionary," saying it could have the biggest impact on citywide and local races. But he said it could be also used by national campaigns that want to target voters locally.
"For better or worse, people are going to see more (TV) spots," said Shrum. Spending on political TV ads by candidates and groups is already expected to top $3 billion in 2008, according to TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group.
The advisory board members "really give us a great view into what candidates need and what campaigns are looking for, and different ways to leverage the capabilities we've brought to bear," Weinsheimer said.
Board members will also help to promote the new service within the political world. In relation to their involvement, the advisors are receiving stock option grants in privately held Spot Runner.
With 50,000 public elections held annually in the U.S., the startup views the political arena as a big opportunity for growth. Add in elections for business, labor and other organizations, and that number swells to 500,000.
"And with issues groups providing opportunities for both election and non-election years, this will be an important category for us," Weinsheimer said.
Spot Runner has been testing its political ad system since the fall in elections across 17 states, spanning U.S. Senate to local Sherriff races. Candidates that ran Spot Runner ads won in about half the contests, according to the company.
Its new service certainly does not aim to put an end to negative campaigning. One of the templates it offers carries the description: "scathing political candidate ad."
Another spot, geared to faith-based candidates, opens with an image of a church-like steeple and a voice-over saying: "You want a leader you can believe in... who shares your values and vision for the future."