Political insiders say online advertising will have a significant impact on the 2000 presidential elections -- which could result in a multimillion-dollar bonanza for portal sites, particularly America Online.
And Vice President Al Gore, a renowned technophile, is widely considered the presidential candidate most likely to make a big splash with ad banners and start an online stampede of presidential hopefuls. Alan Gould, president of Gould Communications Group, said AOL was clearly the market leader for online advertisers because it can break down its 15 million users demographically and geographically, then deliver targeted banner ads to each of those users.
"It gives us reasonable assurance that the ads are going to be seen by the people that they want," he said. Gould, who ran the Web's first concerted political ad campaign during last November's elections, is currently in talks with two declared presidential candidates. "One fact is highly persuasive with both campaigns: If you target correctly on the Net, you are more likely to reach registered voters [than through traditional advertising avenues]," he said. Phil Noble, a veteran political campaigner who is president of PoliticsOnline, said he didn't think online advertisements and campaigning would prove the difference between defeat and victory in 2000.
But I do think it will have an impact," he said. "We are seeing just the first wave of what will become in time the dominant advertising medium." Noble said online ads were a step away from broad-brush TV campaigns and toward "high-speed politics" -- a style of campaigning that encourages one-to-one communication between candidates and voters.
However, Gould is warning candidates that they should consider online advertising as "the icing on the cake" -- something to concentrate on only after they have a campaign Web site that is a "true information center." Besides online advertising, Gould said the best presidential campaigns will use their Web sites for fund raising, as well as making it their primary communications tool to reach out to supporters, volunteers, campaign members and the media. "That's a kind of revolution in the campaign world," Gould said. And the candidate who best executes an online campaign, he said, "could potentially have a very large strategic advantage."