In my first of many blog posts here at Resonate (some of which will be more technical than others), I want to talk at a high level about the opportunity that online advertising presents for driving activist engagement in 2012.

The numbers are straightforward.

As of June 2011, there are roughly 160 million adults online, and in 2010, many of them took action online:

  • 16% (~25 million people) sent email related to the campaign or the elections to friends, family members or others
  • 12% (~19 million people) revealed online which candidate(s) they voted for
  • 8% (~12 million people) signed up to receive updates about the campaign or elections
  • 8% (~12 million people) of online adults shared photo, video or audio content related to the campaign
  • 7% (~11 million people) used the internet to organize or get information about in-person meetings to discuss political issues
  • 5% (~8 million people) used the internet to participate in volunteer activities related to the campaign, like getting lists of voters to call or getting people to the polls
  • 4% (~6 million people) contributed money online to a candidate running for office

That’s a vast number of people, and it’s guaranteed to increase in 2012. But how much it increases for any specific campaign depends, in part, on how seriously it invests in educating, recruiting and activating people online.

Candidates and organizations invest massive resources in creating online communities and tools (Facebook pages, websites, apps, etc.) where users can interact, share, and become active surrogates. Without innovative and well targeted ads to drive awareness, education, and connection, the pipeline of people being driven to those hubs is a slow trickle, and the volume of action is minimal.

Some argue that the power of online organizing is that a campaign doesn’t have to spend money to organize and drive action online. That’s true in select cases. But for most efforts, a high volume of actions will never be achieved without investing in ads.

When high volume online is the goal (high volume of emails, petition signatures, likes, re-tweets, etc) display ads are the most effective way to fire up the engine. When major brands want to drive people to take action, they spend hand over fist in online advertising (rich media example) to drive education and awareness (which eventually leads to action). According to ComScore Ad Metrix, in the first quarter of 2011 alone, P&G ran 5.5 billion ad impressions, Walt Disney ran 4.7 billion, and Living Social ran 4 billion. The same is true of any major brand you can think of; and the political world should be no different.

(Stay tuned for my next blog post on The Email Acquisition X Factor)

At Resonate, we work in concert with our clients to develop unique online media plans to feed the online activist pipeline. Our media plans leverage proprietary algorithms (developed by a non-cookie based research methodology) to connect with audiences online based on their values, attitudes and beliefs; not just demographic and behavioral information. This is something that no other online media organization in the country is able to do, and is a strategy that has led to above average results in every instance.