Grassroots AdSense Strategy

Obama AdsenseBrowsing a news article today about Barack Obama’s swing through New Hampshire, I was struck by the AdSense ad block on the right: an ad for Barack’s own site at BarackObama.com, an ad for DraftObama.org, a site run by my buddy Ben Stanfield designed to encourage the Senator to run for President, and an intriguing third ad placed by Barack’s fellow Senator, Dick Durbin.

The purpose of Barack’s ad is clear: get as many people to visit his own site as possible by leveraging the surge in news coverage his book tour and possible presidential run, so that he can gather as many names and e-mail addresses as possible.

Ditto for DraftObama.org: Ben’s trying to grow his petition list as much as possible, to demonstrate the broad support Senator Obama will have should he get into the race. (Props to DraftObama for the time-sensitive ad copy, btw.)
Senator Durbin’s ad is a bit more intriguing to me. Why would he advertise his petition to encourage Barack to run for President?

My hunch: he’s trying to build his own e-mail list, and using the occasion of Barack’s probable run as a hook to entice people to sign up. The ad clicks through to this URL as a landing page, which then directs you to this GetActive.org page which looks like a Durbin campaign site but is really just designed to collect names and info which will then be shared with Senator Obama should he run. (Cet Active is a DC-based online constituent relationship management app used by hundreds of campaigns and non-profits.) Not only does he get a much larger list than he’d likely build on his own (Illinois politicians are hardly first-movers when it comes to online campaigning), he gets to demonstrate his value to Barack by having a larger-than-expected list when it comes time to actually hand over the list. Using AdSense is just a simple calculation: is it worth a few bucks to acquire lots of names, so that when you tell Barack you helped spread the word about his candidacy, you’ve got 20,000 names instead of 1800?

It’s a savvy move on Senator Durbin’s part, certainly smarter than the well-intentioned (but far less leveragable) effort by Barack’s former Springfield buddies, Dan Hynes and Don Harmon. They’re just sending people directly to RunObama.com’s petition, which means that while they’ll help that draft effort get going, there’s no way to either (a) benefit from the collection of names and info, or (b) demonstrate how much they influenced the petition’s success.

For the record, I think the “draft Obama” sites will be short-lived. I think he declares by mid-January (I have no inside knowledge of any timeframe, just what I read in the papers). And I think he wins the nomination and the Presidency.