Linda McMahon is promoting her U.S. Senate candidacy on the "personalized" radio website Pandora — possibly targeting Connecticut listeners who are both likely Republican primary voters and enjoy wrestling theme songs.
Over on Capitol Report (ctcapitolreport.com), a hot spot for political junkies in this state, Mark Greenberg is buying ad time for his run at the 5th Congressional District's Republican nomination. And Democrat Chris Murphy is spending some of his Democratic U.S. Senate primary campaign dollars at the hyper-local political website OnlyInBridgeport.com.
"One of the beauties of digital advertising is that it's very easy to target on a micro-level," says Roy Occhiogrosso, Gov. Dannel Malloy's top political advisor and one of the guys who orchestrated Malloy's successful 2010 campaign.
"You can target by profession, by geographical area — by just about any demographic that exists," Occhiogrosso explains with almost a note of awe in his voice.
Neither Pandora officials nor McMahon's campaign will discuss how much those Internet radio ads are costing or exactly who is being targeted.
But in a November 2011 release Pandora sent out to solicit new campaign business, the web-radio folks waxed lyrical about the possibilities. (For the digitally uninformed, Pandora offers Internet listeners radio programming that caters to their specific tastes, whether its Mozart or Morbid Angel.)
"With the 2012 political campaign season in full swing, advertisers realize that personalized, Internet radio is a powerful platform to reach a desired set of voters," crowed Pandora's chief revenue officer, John Trimble. He pointed out that the information his site can provide on specific listeners includes ZIP code data and "back-end systems maps" to offer seriously location-centric possibilities.
"These new features add on to the previously available targeting parameters of age, gender … time of day, music genre, seeded artist, interaction, mobile and first impression," according to the Pandora press-release/promotional ad.
McMahon, the former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO who is now the front-runner in the GOP Senate primary race, could theoretically target likely Republican primary voters ages 55-60 who live in a specific southwestern Connecticut suburb and enjoy Frank Sinatra.
As Occhiogrosso puts it, the possibilities could involve "some scary tactics… It's almost like a George Orwell novel, where you can identify the specific type of voter you want to reach, and then reach out to that one voter."
We're talking a whole new layer of campaign advertising that's coming on top of more traditional print, TV and radio vehicles, and political experts say it's often a far more efficient way to spend your political dollars.
"There's no question that candidates will be spending more [to buy ads on the Internet on top of traditional media buys], but they will be getting more bang for their buck," says Arthur Paulson, chairman of Southern Connecticut State University's political science department.
The reasons behind that political efficiency are simple.
Let's say you're a candidate in a primary race and you expect only about 25 percent of registered voters to turn out (which is pretty average in Connecticut). If you run TV ads, says Occhiogrosso, you'll probably hit a whole lot of voters, but 75 percent or more of them won't be voting in your primary.
"With digital, you can really home in on that target," Occhiogrosso points out.
Placing an ad on a website you believe is popular with exactly the sort of voter you want to reach is "another way to break through the clutter" of our media-swamped modern existence, according to Chris Healy.
Healy is a former Republican state chairman and currently a consultant working for Lisa Wilson-Foley, one of the GOP candidates in that 5th Congressional District dogfight. Someone visiting a website is likely to be "more focused than if they're just watching TV while eating dinner," Healy says.
All this incredible targeting of voters is possible because some companies that collect information about how consumers behave online and what websites they frequent have collated that data with voter registration lists. A New York Times story earlier this year cited different versions of ads for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, which offered differing messages to specific types of different voter categories in different states.
This year's free-spending campaign season is turning into a bonanza for dudes like Tom Dudchik, operator of Capitol Report.
"My site derives ads predominantly from legislative advocacy," says Dudchik, which means most of the year lobbyists looking to push their clients' agendas are the ones buying time and space from him. "There is a spike in these political years," he adds. But Dudchik won't discuss his rates.
Lennie Grimaldi, who runs the Only In Bridgeport (OIB) website for hardcore political and government wonks in southwestern Connecticut, says it will cost a candidate $1,000 for a banner ad across the top of his page that will run 50 percent of the time for a full month. For $500, you can get that ad to run 25 percent of a 30-day span.
Grimaldi says he and other political websites can charge a premium for political ads in a year like this because candidates know the people who visit those sites are far more likely to be very active voters. Convert them and you can be damned sure they'll show up on Election Day.
"If you're a politician who wants to reach a Greater Bridgeport market, OIB has great value," Grimaldi says in what is clearly an unapologetic come-on for more candidate cash.
The experts insist that TV will — for the foreseeable future — continue to be a big dog in the noisy junkyard of campaign advertising.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times