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In Targeting Online Ads, Campaigns Ask: Who's Searching for What?

"Our search advertising accounts for a large portion of our new media strategy," said Nick Shapiro, an Obama spokesman.

Search ads also allow highly targeted negative advertising, and it can be done without inviting the level of scrutiny that accompanies print or television advertising.

For example, a voter searching for online information about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) last month, and who entered "hillary" in the search box, might have seen this ad pop up.

Is Obama The One?

Barack Obama

A Worldwide Sensation

But Is He Ready to Lead?

Learn More.

The ad, discovered by AdGooroo, directed viewers to a video stream on the McCain site that mocks Obama's lofty rhetoric and suggests that he sees himself as a religious figure -- there is even a clip of Charlton Heston as Moses parting the waters.

"It shall be known that in 2008 the world will be blessed," the announcer says, as clips of Obama float by. "They will call him 'The One.' He has anointed himself. . . . He can do no wrong. . . . Barack Obama may be the one, but is he ready to lead?"

"Our job as marketers is give them relevant advertising," Frenchman said.

Likewise, the Obama campaign ran an array of attack ads last month, targeting McCain's assertion of being a maverick ("Is McCain a Maverick? Nope.") and his links to lobbyists "McCain's Trip to Bermuda/Learn About the Lobbyists That Gave/McCain $50,000," among other issues.

The Obama campaign recently bought the term "diabetes" and other related phrases. A person seeking information about the disease would have found this blurb from the campaign, according to AdGooroo:

Do You Have Diabetes?

You Might Not Be Covered Under John McCain's Health Plan. Learn More.

"Everyone Googles now," said Richard Stokes, president of AdGooroo. "It's an unprecedented method to reach out to an audience with information at the exact instant that they're looking for information."

Or, as Sara Holoubek, a consultant who recently moderated a panel in New York on search advertising and the campaigns, said: "This is the year the campaigns finally got search."

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