How Much Campaigns Should Spend Online (Or, the Limits of Listening to Newt Gingrich)

According to an article in National Journal today, Newt Gingrich is so bullish on internet advertising that he’s encouraging Republicans to spend as much on it as they do on television. Fortunately for Republican candidates, NJ reporter Ashlie Rodriguez talked to some people who are actually knowledgeable about the subject and found a skeptical response. Yes, sources said, online advertising is valuable, but allocating it 50% of an overall ad budget wasn’t a good idea. For one thing, television ads remain the best way to reach uncommitted/marginally aware voters, since they’re not paying attention to politics online and hence are hard to target with political content. For another, it’s the cross-channel integration that counts, not the absolute percentages — an idea you’ve probably heard around here before.

Of course, a hard number for a campaign’s online allocation is hard to come up with, but most should probably be thinking more in the 10-30% range than 50%, in large part depending on how effective TV is going to be in their particular race. For instance, a congressional campaign in a busy urban area is likely to waste a lot of television ads on people unable to vote in that particular race, making online advertising’s geotargeting capability really valuable for that particular candidate. For other campaigns, the dynamics will be different and could easily favor a television-heavy strategy, meaning that smart candidates will tailor their spending to the actual local circumstances. Other candidates will listen to grand pronouncements from ignorant-but-enthusiastic cheerleaders, and make mistakes accordingly. Your choice.


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Colin Delany
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