Campaign advertising is now reaching into the voting booth

3598534263_aaba5a75c0_m.jpgPhoto credit: secretlondon on Flickr

WASHINGTON — Political advertising is reaching into polling places and even into the voting booth.

That is one of three trends for 2010 campaign advertising identified by Peter Greenberger, Google’s head of Public Sector Ad Sales.

What’s that, you say? Politicking is not allowed within 100 feet of polling places? How quaint. How very 20th century. Once again the law governs atoms, not bits.

When voters enter polling places and the voting booth, they are bringing their iPhones, BlackBerrys and maybe even iPads. And Google is discovering that, new for 2010, voters are using their smart phones even inside the voting booth to search for background on candidates and issues quite literally facing them on the ballot.

And along with the searches come search ads.

If you are a candidate, what would you pay to reach a voter at that critical moment with your advertisement?

Some would say this is merely the digital equivalent of a voter carrying a newspaper or League of Women Voters pamphlet into the voting booth to held guide their choices. Still, this is something new.

The other political ad trends new for 2010, according to Greenberger: Internet video ads, which he calls “a great success,” and political ads targeting – you guessed it – iPhones, BlackBerrys and other mobile devices.

Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, put both of these trends in perspective:

Digital video streams have increased from 6.2 billion in December of 2007 to 11.2 billion two years later, according to Rothenberg. And mobile advertising – ads to BlackBerrys, et al – increased 97% in the past year alone.

“Mobile is becoming a predominant method of accessing the Internet,” said Jonah Seiger, founder and managing partner of Connections Media. But even these soaring stats are not driving comparable political ad sales in digital media.

“It’s a huge increase [from 2008] but always a few points below TV,” Seiger said. “People who make the decisions [about ad buys] come from an older generation.” Ouch. “With all due respect,” he added.

Rothenberg agreed that interactive does not have an appropriate share of ad spending: Americans spend 30-33% of their time on line, he said, making the Internet second only to television. But interactive advertising accounts for only 12-13% of ad spending. One reason is that interactive ads are typically not comparable to television commercials.

“It’s a lot like direct mail,” said Robin Wheeler, Head of Elections and Issue Advocacy for AOL, but with the advantage that advertisers know exactly who is seeing the message. But Rothenberg was more blunt:

“Most interactive advertising is unbelievably bad,” he said.

But all four agreed search is surging: Google alone handles a billion searches a day, Greenberger said, scanning so much data that it would take 75 billion iPads to hold it all.

“The reason people search is that there is so much information out there,” he said.

And now it is truly ubiquitous: Years ago, research by Jeff Cole revealed that people were on line from the bathroom. So it should not be surprising that people are on line from the voting booth – searching and watching ads.

Rothenberg, Greenberger, Seiger and Wheeler were taking part in a discussion at Advertising Week DC, which opened today in Washington.