More technology-use hits and misses from the 2008 campaign

I've written before about brilliant hits and appalling misses in the 2008 Democratic campaign's use of technology. Now I'd like to play catch-up with some other writers' stories on similar subjects. Brad Reed of Network World offered an overview a few weeks ago of technology's impact on multiple sides of the campaign. But the big new-to-me news today is of the Obama campaign's successes and failures (characteristically, they had both) with geographical message targeting.

ClickZ's survey of Obama's $8 million online ad spending contained this interesting excerpt:

The ability to target ads locally is important to any political candidate using any medium, but Obama's campaign took local targeting to a new level. Before several state primaries, and then again before the general election, the campaign customized online ad creative for residents of different states. During the primaries, display ads with tailored messages showed up on news sites in Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and others. Later in the year, a variety of state-specific ads appeared, telling people to "Register to Vote for Barack Obama and Other Candidates For Change," and providing the last day they could register in their state in order to vote.

The article doesn't seem to suggest that the Obama campaign used technology which actually identified where a web surfer might seem to live, but rather just bought on obviously local properties, or on sites that had strong localization for individual page topics (e.g., weather reports for certain geographies).

That's fine. Less fine, however, is that the Obama campaign so botched its email targeting that it invited people to rallies in the wrong states, and got flagged as spam accordingly. I didn't actually have that problem, but then I was a donor who provided an address, both to the Hillary Clinton campaign this year and at some point in the past to John Kerry (who was my source of Obama emails).

Related link: Subliminal Pixels offers a very detailed analysis of the candidates' online advertising. Key findings include that the McCain campaign, a laggard in most online respects, was far more active and alert than the Obama campaign in pay-per-click advertising. The article also highlights the irony that Obama's conventional-media ad spending was around 40X his online spending, even though a huge fraction of his success -- and fundraising! -- can be traced straight to the Internet.

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