Imagine for a minute that you're the president of the United States and you're trying to make the case against Wall Street. What's the best way to do it? As the president, you have almost unlimited access to the traditional media, but that's not always enough today.
So U.S. president Barack Obama, whose use of the internet arguably helped him win the presidency, isn't relying on the mainstream media to promote his Wall Street reform agenda; he's using Google. And he's going straight for the jugular by bidding on topical keywords related to embattled investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a lawsuit against the powerful bank. The allegation: it committed fraud when it helped a billionaire hedge fund manager structure and sell a mortgage-related investment that was designed to fail. The lawsuit couldn't have come at a worse time for Wall Street. President Obama is pushing hard for Wall Street reform legislation, and not surprisingly the lawsuit has become a prominent talking point for politicians who support the legislation.
But the Obama administration isn't content to just sit around and hope that the American public . When you do a search on Google for 'goldman sachs sec' or 'goldman sachs fraud' and even 'goldman sachs' itself, you're likely to be greeted with an ad from the president himself:
In my opinion, these ads are not only bold, especially given the fact that one wouldn't expect the White House to use paid search so aggressively. But they're a very good example of a strategic paid search campaign. Here's why:
- The keywords are carefully selected. How many people are searching for 'wall street reform'? Answer: almost certainly far fewer than those who are searching for Goldman Sachs-related keywords. And even if a person doesn't click on the ad, having the top paid spot for key Goldman Sachs search phrases is generating lots and lots of impressions for Obama's Wall Street reform message. That's crucial because in politics, mind share matters.
- The keywords are timely. The White House's keywords are not just carefully selected; they're timely. By quickly leveraging the lawsuit against Goldman Sachs and bidding on related keywords shortly thereafter, the Obama administration is far more likely to get real value for its paid search buck. In my opinion, treating keyword selection as an ongoing process and not a once-and-done exercise is an area where many paid search clients fail, but that's clearly not the case here.
- The campaign isn't too broad. While the White House is doing battle with Wall Street, it's not going overboard with its paid search campaign. A search for keywords related to other banks, such as JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, don't appear to bring up the White House ads. This is probably a good thing; not only would keywords relating to other banks probably not generate nearly as much effective exposure, they could potentially support an argument that the White House is on a vindictive crusade against Wall Street.
All in all, it's clear that the tech savvy of Barack Obama and his staff didn't end when he entered the White House. While many will debate the appropriateness of his administration's use of Google AdWords, and Wall Street reform itself, one thing is clear: politicians looking to deliver a message but who ignore the virtues do so at their own detriment.