Web Publishers and Politicos to Talk Campaign Cash in D.C.

Where corporate marketers have led online, politicians are poised to follow. In fact, according to a survey conducted last year by Dynamic Logic, a quarter of political campaign budgets will be dedicated to Internet activities in 2008.

Today, publishers, market researchers, political consultants and advertising firms will gather in Washington, D.C. to talk online politics at E-Voter 2002 Future of Political Campaigns on the Web, an event hosted by E-Voter Institute, a nonpartisan trade association.

“It’s not just websites. It’s not just fundraising,” stresses Karen Jagoda, president of E-Voter Institute. “There’s a lot of money involved and a lot of change taking place.”

Panelists from Dynamic Logic, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, the Online Publishers Association, AOL Time Warner, Advertising Age as well as various political organizations and advertising firms will discuss the role of the Web in political campaigns, how recent campaign finance reform legislation could drive more money online and lessons for the upcoming 2004 election. According to Jagoda, attendees will span the political sphere, from national political committee members and union representatives to academics and service providers.

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The mission: determine how best to tap into the steadily increasing flow of campaign cash and potential voters moving towards the Web. As indicated in the 2002 Policom Leadership Survey to be presented at the event, 57% of the chiefs of staff, media consultants, PR advisors and other decision-making respondents say direct mail and print budgets will be the most likely sources sapped of campaign budget funds to be transferred online. By 2004, money allocated towards Internet initiatives will make up14% of overall budgets on average; that number is projected to double to 28% by 2008.

Already, 23% of the survey participants have purchased online advertising for a client, while 33% have recommended buying online ads. In addition, 68% say the Net is currently effective for building campaign awareness.

Campaigners made the 2002 election the biggest yet for communicating political messages online. Six in ten of the Senate campaigns that advertised on AOL Time Warner online properties before last year’s election were decided by less than 10% of the vote. In those close-races, candidates who spent more on Web advertising won 67% of the time, according to AOL research to be presented. AOL purports that contextual online ad placement contributed to Jim Talent’s successful bid for U.S. Senate in the super-tight Missouri race. Tower ads that ran on Health.com, AOL Health and CNN Health and featured Talent’s stance on healthcare issues garnered a 4% click-through rate on the day before the election.

Email also played a role in 2002 campaigns; politicos have begun to recognize the immediacy of email which can enable instant communication and response from constituents. “Rapid Response” media such as email and wireless and PDA alerts have been employed by 36% of E-Voter survey participants.

As a result of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 and its bans on certain types of communications and fundraising via broadcast media, direct mail and telemarketing -- but not the Internet -- interest in advertising on the Web has been piqued. According to the survey, 44% of respondents say campaign finance reform will make them more likely to use and recommend Internet advertising.

Still, perceptions of the Net’s lack of reach and targeting capabilities, and concerns about security and privacy must be allayed before the political campaign money spigot is turned on fully.

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