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Search For ‘Stimulus, Get A Petition

line Search For ‘Stimulus, Get A Petition

February 12, 2009

By Amy Harder



Thomas Keeley, Freedom Works’ online marketing coordinator, said search engine advertising is the most straightforward way for his group to reach the most people. The organization’s anti-stimulus Web site and petition,, pops up in Google’s “Sponsored Links” column when a user searches for the keyword “stimulus.” Freedom Works has been using this tactic for two years, a lifetime in the Internet age. Keeley touted it as a way to keep up with the 24-hour news cycle, since his group can put up a new ad within a day, and it’s cost-effective: groups only pay for ads when users click on them.

This latest round of online advertising suggests a future for lobbying that’s less about cocktail parties and K Street and more about reaching as many people as possible around the country through the Web and e-mail. While these latest search engine ads have come primarily from right-leaning groups, Peter Greenberger, the head of Google’s D.C. political sales team, said organizations from all over the political spectrum have capitalized on the strategy.

Groups can influence the Beltway audience both indirectly, by targeting Web users around the country, and directly, by tailoring ad buys to the Washington area, Greenberger said. The latter is what the National Association of Realtors did with the wording of some of its search engine ads urging Congress to “fix the housing crisis.” That campaign ends Friday, but it may be extended depending on what Congress does with the stimulus and how the provisions related to home foreclosures fare, said Erica Kraus, media director of Fenn Communications Group, which is coordinating NAR’s campaign.

Keeley, however, didn’t see a reason to tailor Freedom Works’ stimulus ads to a Hill audience because “there are so many people angry about it” all over the country. The group has done more specific search engine campaigns before, though, such as advertising alongside lawmakers’ names and tailoring buys to specific districts.

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