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Mobile Ads Make Politics Even Flimsier



In case you haven’t noticed, I am not a big fan of politics or politicians. It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle they come from or claim to have allegiance to, to me a politician is a politician is a politician.

So what is happening in Florida Democratic primaries today doesn’t help me feel any better about these folks. According to ClickZ, some folks running are using mobile ads to help them get the vote during the ‘last mile’ to the ballot box (or whatever it is in Florida these days).

Mobile advertising is often a direct-response marketing tool, something focused on a call-to-action, but for one Florida Attorney General candidate, it’s all about persuasion. Today, as Democrats queue up to vote in their party’s primary – quite possibly with mobile devices in pocket – Dan Gelber’s campaign aims to reach them there. The AG hopeful is running Google mobile ads targeted to Floridians in the hopes of convincing them to vote for Gelber if they search for more information about the candidate while en route to the polls or waiting in line.

“The point is, it’s really just the last ad people will see when they’re getting ready to vote…. It’s the last way some voters will look for info,” said Josh Koster, managing partner for Washington, DC-based Chong + Koster, a digital consulting firm working with the Gelber campaign.

Now don’t get me wrong. I realize this is what advertising is all about. The trouble here is that we are not talking about which brand of deodorant you are going to be buying. No this is about persuading people through a blue text ad to make a decision that could impact a lot more than if they smell nice.

Think I’m over-reacting? What’s your take on this comment from the agency that put together this campaign?

The Gelber campaign has one message to get across to voters searching for information about the candidate and his opponents: He’s been endorsed by several major Florida newspapers.

“Gelber Gets Endorsements,” reads a mobile ad running today. “Every Major FL Newspaper Endorses Dan Gelber for AG. Learn more,” it continues. The St Petersburg Times, Miami Herald, and South Florida Sun Sentinel are among papers that have given Gelber the nod.

“It’s pure persuasion at this point,” said Koster. Indeed, though the ads link to the Gelber campaign site, the campaign isn’t necessarily concerned with people clicking on them. Rather, the goal is to convince them to vote for Gelber after reading the brief ad copy itself. “These are very, very highly valuable persuasion impressions…Very few times do you have a persuasion message that can be boiled down to one [short ad message],” said Koster, calling the Gelber situation “a somewhat unique case.”

How lame is this? Trying to persuade people to vote for someone because a dying industry (the newspapers) have decided that they will back a certain candidate. If you are basing your vote on which paper endorsed what candidate that’s not research, that’s just lazy, especially if it is a last minute decision. Oh and aren’t the newspapers supposed to be unbiased? Oh, sorry, that hasn’t been the case in, oh, let’s say forever.

If we have gotten to the point where it’s only about the last message anyone sees before they make a decision does that mean that many people will stop thinking and just do what they are told right before they need to act? I’m sure you are shouting “No way!” but maybe you should stop giving people so much credit. After all, if that wasn’t the case why would these ads appear?

  • http://www.evolvinginteractive.com Mark

    Isn’t this story about voter apathy more than crooked politicians? If this form of marketing works it’s embarrassing, but I wouldn’t blame the candidate or the digital marketing firm. Maybe the reason we get so many bad politicians is because we don’t take the decision very seriously.

    • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

      @Mark – That is certainly another possible angle. I suspect voter apathy may be a result of years of crooked politicians though ;-). It’s a regular political “chicken or the egg” dilemma isn’t it?

  • http://GodwinPlumbing.com Juliette Cowall

    RE: “Oh and aren’t the newspapers supposed to be unbiased?” Newspapers have always endorsed politicians – it’s called an op-ed page. Why is it that blogs can publish both “objective” news stories and opinionated editorials (sometimes in the same article), yet a newspaper isn’t supposed to? At least newspapers let you know what you’re getting into. Maybe blogs could learn something from traditional news rather than ripping it apart at every opportunity. Like everything else, newspapers have a history, and those who don’t learn it are destined to repeat it.