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Campaign Ads Stay Off-Line, on Air

By Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 5, 2004; 9:53 AM

With the presidential election just a few weeks away, the pressure is mounting on both camps to effectively use the Internet to help woo voters and secure an Election Day win.

After last week's debate, both campaigns used their Web sites, Internet ads and e-mail dispatches to blast out positive images and messages about their candidate. E-mails and ads plastered cyberspace after President Bush's and Sen. John F. Kerry's first tilt Thursday to point out hits from each party's candidate and misses from the other side (judging by media coverage and recent polls, the Massachusetts Democrat came out ahead in the debate, with his team doing a better job spinning the virtues of his debate performance). Expect the same push by the campaigns and of course the media to instantly analyze the debate when Vice President Cheney and his Democratic rival Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) square off.

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Despite high-tech tactics during the pre-election run-up, Internet advertising by the campaigns isn't as hot as expected. That's according to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. "While there has been more Internet advertising activity in this year's presidential race than in the past, the money spent on Web ads still pales in comparison with that allocated for TV commercials, the first-ever study of online political ads found. The study, released yesterday ... said President Bush, Democrat John Kerry, their political parties, and allied independent groups spent $2.6 million to post banner ads on Web sites from January through August. That is less than 1 percent of the estimated $330 million spent for TV ads in the country's top 100 media markets over the same period, the study said. The study relied on data collected by Evaliant Media Resources from more than 2,000 commercial Web sites and compared it with figures from TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political TV ad spending," the Associated Press reported.

Kerry's campaign spent more than $1.3 million on Web ads, a massive sum compared with the $419,000 ponied up by the Bush campaign. "However, the Republican National Committee outspent its Democratic counterpart, $487,000 to $257,000. Independent groups spent less than $200,000," the wire service reported.

The Pew study's author, Michael Cornfield, wrote in a summary of the findings: "While presidential campaigns have stepped up their online fund-raising, voter-profiling, and insider communicating this year, they have not ventured aggressively into online advertising. This is somewhat surprising because online ads can reach new, undecided, and wavering voters in the demographic and geographic niches where they are thought to reside. Online ads would seem to provide a missing link between the campaigns' existing Internet efforts and tens of millions of Americans."
The Associated Press via The Philadelphia Inquirer: Campaigns Putting More Ads on Net, but Bulk Go to TV

The Washington Post cut to the chase about the study's findings: "The presidential ad war online is beginning to look more like a skirmish. A new survey of online advertising ... found that both candidates have spent relatively little on relatively benign ads. ... The candidates' expenditures together totaled less than $1.8 million, a pittance compared with either of their television advertising budgets. 'This is the dog that didn't bark,' said [Cornfield]. 'Where are the online ads?'"

Nor are the Net political ads any more, well, political, than those in traditional media: "The ads were not noticeably more negative than ones found in other media, the report said -- belying concerns that the less regulated, more difficult-to-track world of online advertising would give rise to a parallel universe of especially hard-hitting attacks. 'Although parts of the online world are a public 'wild West' where few standards of taste, civility, and accuracy prevail, political advertising on the Internet has adhered to mass media standards of political discourse,' the report said," according to the Post article.
The Washington Post: Campaigns Spending Little On Web Ads (Registration required)

So whom did these paltry ad buys benefit -- and who saw them? From CBS Marketwatch: "The Bush campaign ... aimed its online ads at middle-class women and voters in battleground states, according to the Pew report. The Kerry campaign concentrated on raising money from progressive outlets in metropolitan areas. The biggest online advertising buys for Bush were at these sites: KPTV Oregons12.tv.com, Parents.com, KNVA-TV.com, El Nuevo Herald.com and KPHO CBS 5 News.com. The biggest online ad buys for Kerry were at these sites: SFGate.com, Newsweek.com, Village Voice.com, Reuters.com and L.A. Weekly Media.com." In addition, "the few advertisements that ran on the Internet between January and August sought only $25 and $50 campaign contributions," the article said.
CBS MarketWatch via Investor's Business Daily: Political Campaigns Ignore the Net as Ad Medium

Wired News' coverage focused on the Internet spending habits of Kerry's ad team. "After Thursday night's debate ... the Democratic National Committee bought roughly $400,000 worth of ads on 50 sites, including USA Today, The Washington Post, MSNBC, the New York Times, Salon.com, Weather.com, ESPN.com and Movieline.com, according to [the Pew report]. The DNC also bought ads on local news sites. In a few days, it almost doubled its entire online advertising budget for the previous eight months," Wired wrote. "And the DNC isn't done. The party plans to have another online media blitz after Tuesday night's debate between the vice presidential candidates ... said Jano Cabrera, the DNC's communications director. The DNC's web effort last week capitalized on the number of Americans who watched the 90-minute debate between Kerry and Bush. According to Nielsen Media Research, the 90-minute debate drew in more than 62 million viewers. In contrast, only about 24 million tuned in to listen to Kerry's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention this summer."
Wired News: Kerry Campaign Dumps Cash on Web (Registration required)

Campaigning, With TV Dinners

Think mud-slinging political ads are anything new? A new exhibit highlights some of the gems from every presidential ad campaign since 1952. The Chicago Tribune today wrote that "just as political ads play on our collective hopes and fears, they also offer something of a time capsule on American life. Picture the vacuum-toting housewife in a 1956 ad for President Eisenhower as she tells viewers that happiness depends on being liked by one's neighbors, an indirect pitch for Ike's respect around the globe. Or the 1972 George McGovern ad that flashes dozens of headlines about President Richard Nixon's Watergate-riddled White House, as a voice says, 'This is about the government. This is about credibility. This is about electronics. This is about bugging. This is about spying. This is about thievery.' These ads and more than 250 others can be viewed at a new online exhibit created by the New York-based American Museum of the Moving Image. 'The Living Room Candidate' features TV ads from every presidential campaign since 1952, including some of the most talked about from this year."

The exhibit can be seen online at www.movingimage.us.
The Chicago Tribune: Pitching a President (Registration required)

Hi-Tech Canvassing

The art of canvassing voters is getting more scientific. Wired News is the latest publication to weigh in with its own piece on how technology is giving a boost to databases of voter registration and other key campaign data. "Once the tool of county planners and civil engineers, geographic information systems technology is becoming a valuable political tool in get-out-the-vote efforts, allowing precision canvassing of target areas for campaigns. Some experts see the science of geographic information systems, or GIS, becoming an integral part of any successful political movement. California counties are using this method to improve voter turnout among under-represented ethnic groups, while the national parties have used it to bring out the faithful," Wired News reported. "GIS was developed by local governments and real estate developers to cross-reference important data about an area with its geography in a graphical form, usually overlaying data on overhead photographs or maps of a region. ... Now, get-out-the-vote organizers have started overlaying information from registered voter lists, attaching data such as voter history, party registration or time in the community to every physical address on a map. Downloaded to PDAs, the information can be toted door to door."
Wired News: Pinpointing Voters on a Map

Watching St. Helens

Geology buffs and volcano enthusiasts are watching the latest burps and smoke signals from Mount St. Helens in anticipation of a new eruption. But since the volcano's last significant activity in the 1980s, technology has helped scientists monitor the potential cataclysm. A "VolcanoCam" monitors Mount St. Helens from an observatory just five miles away, CNET's News.com reported in an article about hi-tech volcano monitoring. "As the volcano slept in recent years, scientists and engineers have labored to come up with better devices and methods for capturing its vital signs. Most significant is global positioning system technology, which pinpoints locations on earth with the help of satellites in orbit. GPS has allowed geologists to chart how the ground shifts around a volcano without the use of laser-ranging devices, which measure distance using lasers and reflector targets placed on a volcano. A continuing challenge, however, is that no one can ever be sure where the next big blow-out will come. Hence, researchers had given greater attention to sites other than the Washington state volcano," the article said.

Knight-Ridder Newspapers also focused on how far technology has come since 1980's devastating eruption, which killed 57 people and dumped ash over a swath of the Pacific Northwest. Mount St. Helens "boasts one of the most extensive networks of scientific instruments on any volcano in the world. ... GPS antennas placed on the mountain continuously record their positions and can immediately alert geologists to changes in ground level that could indicate that magma is pushing up from below. ... Another major improvement since 1980 is the digital recording of data. Now the information recorded by seismometers - devices that measure shaking - can quickly be analyzed for changes in frequency."
CNET's News.com: Volcano Research Goes Hi-Tech
Knight Ridder Newspapers via Kansas City Star:Volcano Watchers Armed With New Tools, but Uncertainty Lingers

EarthLink, Phone Home

EarthLink is joining the increasingly crowded group of companies offering Internet phone service. The company is going to offer free computer-to-computer calls to its 1.2 million high-speed Internet subscribers, the Wall Street Journal reported, in advance of EarthLink's announcement this morning. "Time Warner Inc.'s America Online, the nation's biggest ISP, is testing an Internet phone offering that it expects to roll out to its four million broadband customers next year. Cable companies such as Charter Communications Inc. and Cablevision Systems Corp., and phone companies including AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc. are all offering Internet phone calling, generally at rates below standard phone service," the paper said.
The Wall Street Journal: EarthLink to Offer Free Calling Between Computers Over the Web (Subscription required)

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