I have been surprised by the lack of online activity by the presidential candidates, especially in key states like Iowa and New Hampshire. With the primaries scheduled in those states for early January, now is the time to make a push online and it just doesn’t seem to be happening. Every few days I visit the Des Moines Register, New Hampshire Union Leader, WHOtv.com (NBC affiliate in Des Moines, IA) and WMUR.com (ABC affiliate in Manchester, NH) among others and I have yet to find any political ads.
Over the past four to five months I have made more than a few trips to Washington to meet with candidates and their agencies. It is interesting because the agencies and interactive teams understand the importance of online, but unfortunately selling the idea through to campaign management has been a problem.
In 2004 we were very active with the DNC and the John Kerry campaign leading up to the presidential election. I remember the Democrats and the Kerry team being big advocates of digital, with dozens of campaigns being executed around specific issues, post-debate announcements and everything in between. So while Kerry was unsuccessful in his bid for the presidency, many of those same staffers who were so pro online have been circulating throughout the other campaigns for this election.
The amount of money being raised for this election is unprecedented, with much of it earmarked for advertising. I am waiting to see a campaign go big online instead of fighting for the same TV or radio spot. The only candidate I have really seen using online advertising is Ron Paul and he was able to raise a surprising $5 million this past quarter.