Platform A, Election Spending and Old-Media-Think
At last week’s Digital Media Conference held outside Washington, D.C., the lunchtime speaker was Lynda Clarizio, President of AOL’s Platform A. Platform A is a huge advertising network, a group of smaller ad networks lashed together under a single brand name. It’s AOL’s attempt to play big in the online ad game.
Clarizio’s a great speaker, able to command attention even amid the din and eventual post-prandial slump of a conference lunch.
But one thing she said led me to believe part of her operation, for all its new-media-world-killing ambition, is still grounded in the thinking of old media.
Since I wasn’t taking notes, I can’t quote her figures or words specifically. But she said she was disappointed with the recent performance of paid political advertising online. She hoped sales to political campaigns would boost online ad revenues this year.
The trouble with that thought is this:
Political campaigns–particularly Barack Obama’s, but many others as well–have learned to master social media to get their message out. Why buy online ads when a staff of two social media masterminds, a brilliant geek in a Red Sox cap and a battalion of interns can spread a powerful political message immediately, virally and essentially without cost? And far beyond the reach of any ad buy?
Political campaigns have become some of the most adept, persistent innovators in social media, and they have had a powerful effect already in motivating volunteers, generating donations and circulating millions of messages via video, pictures, widgets, blogs, Tweets, podcasts, purloined documents and endless screeds. Much of this is being done by people with no formal affiliation with the campaign–which is, of course, the way social media is supposed to work. [For details on the web 2.0 arms race [[Obama’s campaign so far is kicking McCain’s staff’s slow-moving butt]], I invite you to attend the daily master class on such matters at the website of TechPresident.]
Paid online advertising–no matter how well targeted, contextualized and behaviorally-aware–is a garden hose.
Social media is a tidal wave.
Why bother paying for the former when all you need to do is ride the latter?