Jul 24, 2012.
As Mitt Romney heads off on his "Earning His Foreign Policy Chops" tour (Hit the Olympics opening. Check. Shake hands in Poland. Check. Look serious and concerned in Israel. Check.), the real election battle is in cyberspace. Especially the one aimed at young Latinos.
If you've been hit with loads of texts; your inbox has offers for T-shirts or dinner with Candidate X; and every time you open Facebook there, on the side is, a presidential-looking picture of a Candidate inviting you to "like" him; you must be Hispanic. And, most likely, a young one.
Candidate Barack Obama proved it back in 2008 -- if you want my vote, follow me on Twitter. His use of social media proved the power of social media and stunned the pols who still thought a glossy flyer in your mailbox and a robo-call from a Hollywood celeb was cutting edge.
It is if you're 103 and dragging an oxygen bottle around with you everywhere you go like some lapdog on a leash.
To reach Latinos, though, takes a mobile, and social, assault. YouTube has more power than the Boob Tube, and the candidates know it.
In part, it's got to be a way of extending campaign dollars. TV time costs beaucoup bucks. Internet, not so much.
The Associated Press reported last week that the Obama campaign has spent $100 million on TV ads in the so-called battleground states alone. One hundred million smackers! That's about four times as much as Romney.
OK, old folks vote. So blanketing the airwaves during "Wheel of Fortune" breaks makes a lot of sense. But in an election that's certain to be decided by the narrowest of margins, the campaigns need to target groups that make up slices of that vote.
Enter los Latinos, and the surge in digital ad spending.
According to a ClickZ Politics analysis, Obama for America spent $26.9 million on digital ads between its launch in spring 2011 and May 2012. Romney spent $7.6 million.
And the pace of the candidates' online spending has been accelerating. Romney spent $2.45 million of that $7.6 mill total in 2011, ClicZ reported. Obama doubled that, with $5 mill. But that means that Romney spent twice as much since the primaries began than he did the previous year. And Obama for America dumped a whopping $20 million into online ads between January and May -- four times as much as he did in 2011!
In the fight for critical, targeted audiences like Hispanics, it's not just the Costco of advertising buys. It's smart.
"That political connection is real and is just as important and valuable as a telephone call, a knock on your door or a piece of mail you get in your old fashioned mailbox," Matt Barreto, the co- founder of the Latino Decisions polling firm, told the Fronteras Desk.
Barreto should know. He specializes in determining what Latinos think.
"When we specifically focused on people who told us in a survey that they were going on candidate websites that they were signing up for candidate Facebooks, that they were using Twitter, blogs, even just email communication to talk about politics, those people were translating that into real politics and so we saw a real strong connection there," he said.
The bottom line, he told Fronteras, "because there is a large presence of Latinos online, I think that there is an opportunity there for the campaigns to cultivate that and to work with that and to get more Latinos participating."
So you see the ads on Facebook, and on Google, and, creepily, they seem to follow you around on almost everything else you open up if you do some searches for campaign info or regularly visit sites that campaign bots identify as targets.
The "social" in social media also includes word of mouth. So both parties have invited Hispanic bloggers to their conventions. As Ana Castro of LATISM told San Diego’s KPBS, sharing facing time with a Latino blogger assures the candidates an intimate connection with a Hispanic -- and very likely young -- crowd.
"If you want an audience, just get on the agenda and we'll make sure that you're given a platform," she said.
The digital effort doesn't stop with carpet bombing a prospective voter's Facebook page and Google searches with ads. Or with schmoozing with bloggers. The ubiquitous online assault takes a page from the television marketer's playbook. The ads pop up on sites (i.e., the modern version of "shows") folks who might like the candidate's pitch tend to go to.
Go to The Daily Kos (liberal. Make that, "Liberal.") and you find Obama ads. Like one that said "Mitt Romney claims President Obama has gone on a 'spending binge.' False. Federal spending growth is lower under President Obama."
Better yet, it includes helpful Twitter and Facebook buttons inviting those so inclined to pass it on to their friends.
Viral? Maybe not. But infectious, no doubt.
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