YouTube and the 2008
Presidential Campaign Eric M. Appleman Posted Feb. 24, 2008
One cannot talk about the 2008 presidential campaign without
considering Google and YouTube. YouTube did not even exist during
2004 campaign; it launched in February 2005 and was acquired by Google in October
2006. In May 2007 Google brought on Peter Greenberger to build
and manage a new Elections & Issue Advocacy sales team.
According to Google, its involvement during the primaries and the
election "was an extension of the company's mission to make information
more accessible and useful to people all over the world."
Examples of Google's activities:
Google/YouTube sponsored with CNN two primary debates, a
Democratic debate at the Citadel in Charleston, SC on July 23, 2007 and
a Republican debate at Progress Energy Center for Performing Arts in
St. Petersburg FL on Nov. 28, 2007.
During 2007 eight of the presidential candidates made the
pilgrimmage to the Googleplex at Mountain View, where they spoke to and
took questions from Google employees as part of the Candidates@Googles
series. [Clinton Feb.; McCain May 4;
Richardson May 14;
Edwards May 30; Paul July 13;
Gravel Oct. 10; Obama Nov. 14; and Dodd Dec. 10.
Additionally Ralph Nader visited on May 12, 2008 as part of the Policy
Google provided each candidate with a YouTube brand
channel. [March 1, 2007 press
Google hosted retreats and provided technology to delegates and
attendees at both Conventions. In Denver Google was a major
sponsor of the 8,000 square-foot "Big Tent." Here, in addition to
providing free smoothies for the assembled bloggers, Google showed off
its some of its new applications. The Google-Vanity Fair party at
Exdo Event Center on Aug. 28, 2008 drew many celebrities. For the
Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, the system used
to register delegates made use of Google technology and the News and
Media Portal on the Convention's website was "powered by Google."
Google joined with RedState.com to host two blogger brunches, and, as
in Denver, Google teamed with Vanity Fair to host a party on the
closing night of the convention, this time at the Walker Art Center in
New Orleans leaders joined with Google and YouTube
to propose a
two-hour forum "America's
Presidential Debate in New Orleans" to be held at Ernest N. Morial
Convention Center in New Orleans on
Sept. 18, 2008; however this event did not happen.
Google created a number of tools and applications such as 2008
U.S. Elections site, Google Maps Election Gallery, Power Readers in
Politics, and the 2008 U.S. Voter Info site which voters could use to
find their polling place.
As Election Day approached YouTube teamed with PBS to lauch
"Video Your Vote," allowing people to share their voting
experiences. [October 15, 2008 press
Beyond these high-profile activities, one must consider the ways in
which the campaigns used Google and YouTube day in and day out.
Posting an edgy1
video on YouTube is a good way to generate buzz. On a less
glamorous note, Google's main source of revenue is search advertising
(AdWords), and the campaigns made abundant use of that during the 2008
Greenberger, Team Manager of
Elections and Issue Advocacy at Google Inc.,
provided these observations on some of the trends of the 2008
The 2008 election was clearly a watershed year for the Internet and
politics. Friends, tweets, videos, and texts received most of the
attention, but 2008 may be remembered most as the election when
campaign advertising dollars began the inevitable migration online.
In 2004, less than 1% of presidential ad dollars went online. In 2008,
we saw the presidential candidates spend almost 5% of their advertising
budgets online. According to analysis done by
ClickZ, Obama spent more than $7.5 million on Google in 2008, about
45% of his total online advertising spend. His online investment
clearly paid off: Obama collected more than half a billion dollars in
online contributions from over 3 million donors, according to data the Obama team reported to the Washington Post.
His new media director, Joe Rospars, said publicly that the Obama campaign saw
"ridiculously high" ROI from Google AdWords of 15:1.
Both Barack Obama's and John McCain's campaigns used online advertising
from early on in the primary season and continued to invest in digital
throughout the course of the election to...
1. Raise money
Both campaigns used search advertising to capture unprecedented
levels of online engagement and build their lists of supporters and
In fact, Google advertising drove what the Obama campaign
characterized as "ridiculously high" ROI of 15:1, and search
advertising was a core driver of the Obama campaign's 13-million member
2. Set the record straight
We saw both candidates use online ads to clamp down rumors and
deliver carefully tailored messages to interested voters.
For example, the Obama campaign used search to counter online and
offline rumors that Obama was Muslim with an ad on relevant keywords
affirming his Christian faith.We saw similarly savvy efforts from the
McCain campaign, which targeted ads about Biden's past criticism of
Obama to people reading articles related to the Democratic candidates.
3. Persuade undecided voters
In addition to search and display ads, which both campaigns used
to reach undecided voters on hot button issues, YouTube proved to be an
incredibly popular and effective tool for political persuasion.
During the election, McCain's campaign uploaded more than 300
videos to YouTube, while Obama's team added more than 1,800 videos. Of
the videos Obama uploaded, 18 were viewed more than 1 million times.
Clearly, online video played an influential role in this
election. YouTube allowed both candidates to bypass traditional media
channels and speak directly to voters. In addition to videos from
candidates, thousands of people posted their own election-related
videos to YouTube, which served to draw more people into the political
process and encourage lively public debate.
4. Mobilize local voters
During the primaries and into the general election, both
candidates used search to educate voters about their polling places and
drive supporters to the polls.
For example, Obama used geo-targeted search ads in Texas to
educate voters about the complicated Texas Two-Step and remind
supporters they had to vote twice (once in the caucus and again in the
About Peter and his team:
Peter joined Google in May 2007 to build and manage a new Elections
& Issue Advocacy sales team dedicated to introducing Google
solutions to political campaigns, committees, and issue advocacy groups.
Previously, Peter grew the public affairs division of New Media
Strategies, a Web 2.0 marketing firm, working with clients such as the
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Discovery Networks, Ford
Motor Company, the Granholm for Governor campaign, Merck, Inc.,
Wachovia, the Washington Redskins, and XM Satellite Radio.
Prior to joining New Media Strategies, Peter spent ten years working on
presidential, gubernatorial, U.S. Senate and Congressional campaigns.
Most recently, he managed Congressman Brad Carson's 2004 United States
Senate campaign in Oklahoma.
During the Clinton Administration, Peter worked in the White House
Office of Legislative Affairs as the Director of Congressional
Correspondence. In this role, he coordinated all written communications
between the White House and the Congress.