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Ever since the highlight of online political advertisements during the 2012 Obama campaign, political campaigns are currently using more online advertisements because they can show the value of their particular message very effectively. According to A Research Agenda for the Effects of Online Political Advertising: Surveying Campaign Practice, 2000-2012, Daniel Kreiss and Lisa Barnard mention that campaigns in 2012 began integrating online data with voter files in order to expand their target audience based on voters’ attitudes and behavior. Targeted ads indeed help political candidates better engage with key voters. But Kreiss’ and Barnard’s initial argument is grasped around the idea that target audiences are not able to understand online political ads thoroughly unless they recognize the media effects and the organization of the ad specifically, and how the ad encompasses the campaign itself.

Kreiss and Barnard further mention how campaigns use tailoring and targeting to make their political ads more effective online. Today, there is recent interactivity in online ads of Republican candidate Thom Tillis and his Democratic rival Kay Hagan running for U.S. Senate. Tillis’ and Hagan’s ads show a wide range of emotional and informational ads in a positive and negative light on various websites like blog pages, music sites (Pandora), and YouTube.

The National Federation of Independent Business, North Carolina’s and America’s leading small-business association, has aired a positive and informative online ad endorsing Thom Tillis for the U.S. Senate. Since Tillis supports small business and knows NFIB supports small business, NFIB and other people who favor small business are targeted audiences for Tillis’ campaign. The online ad presents Tillis in a positive light – mentioning that “he has his finger on the polts of the people and he’s been in business, so Thom knows what it is to make a pay roll; he knows how businesses operate…taking that knowledge to Washington with him would be a tremendous asset to the people of North Carolina.” By applying Kreiss’ and Barnard’s argument to this online ad, Tillis’ campaign effectively positioned the ad to become personable to an audience who works for or favors small businesses. Viewers are able to understand the ad’s mission to recruit people to go to the polls and to persuade their friends and family members to help turn out the small-business vote for Tillis.

Another example is Hagan’s campaign airing a new online ad of Hagan speaking directly into the camera saying “Tills should be ashamed” of one of his ads for allowing an Air Force veteran to say they cannot let service members who fought overseas “die in vain.” In Hagan’s ad, her stance against Tillis’ message appeared strong with her disagreement of Tillis’ ad that mentioned how she doesn’t care about troops serving in Afghanistan. The ad’s content focuses on negative aspects of Tillis. One of Hagan’s tactics in this ad is persuasion. Similarly to the Obama campaign’s primary objectives for its online advertising, it’s clear that Hagan tries to persuade viewers to vote for her and not for Tillis. According to another article written by Kreiss, Yes We Can (Profile You) A Brief Primer on Campaigns and Political Data, Obama’s campaign used voter models and targeting strategies using geo-location targeting to display ads to a specific demographic who favor the Democratic party. Kreiss and Barnard would most likely agree that political campaigns are continuing to use online advertising as an effective communication tool because online ads are cheaper than TV ads and are easier to track key voters and independent voters who are easy to sway. Reaching specific demographics and locations online can filter the type of message the candidate wants to broadcast in order for their audience to understand how that message embodies their campaign as a whole.

Works Cited:

DelReal, Jose. “Hagan Pushes Back on Islamic State Campaign Ads.”   Washington Post. The Washington Post, 8 Oct. 2014. Web. 09 Oct.   2014.

Kreiss, Daniel and Barnard, Lisa, “A Research Agenda for the Effects of Online Political Advertising: Surveying Campaign Practice, 2000-2012.” International Journal of Communication, forthcoming.

Kreiss, Daniel. “Yes We Can (Profile You): A Brief Primer on Campaigns and Political Data.” Stanford Law Review Online 64 (2012): 70.

“VIDEO: NFIB Endorses Thom Tillis for Senate | NFIB.” National Federation of Independent Business. N.p., 42 Sept. 2014. Web. 09. Oct. 2014.

By Conway Wilcox

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