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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.

Patricio Robles

Published 22 April, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2379 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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Adrian Swinscoe

Great article and good to see that Barack Obama and his team are leading the way in getting involved with a very specific conversation. Wonder if the UK political parties are doing the same. Do you know if they are? Adrian

over 6 years ago

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ugg classic 5815

Aunque el artículo no llega a mencionar la física indiscutible que desmiente la teoria oficial sobre como se desplomaron los 3 edificios, al menos habla de otras cosas. Ya iba siendo hora la verdad, gracias Diagonal por la valentía, y le

over 6 years ago

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SEM Geek

Who exactly is managing this Paid Search program for the White House?  Do they work with an agency or is this done in-house?

over 6 years ago

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Mike Altieri

Unfortunately, if you go through the path, this campaign is nothing more than a donation tactic. Once you move past the static landing page, there is no further information or content on financial reform. In my opinion, it's a disingenuous tactic and Google should address it.

about 6 years ago

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Amy McGeever, Owner, Consultant at Mesh Strategies

This is really interesting, however it can't be a White House project. It will no doubt be funded for by Organizing for America, the successor organization to Obama for America and a project of the Democratic National Committee that runs barackobama.com and raises money to support the Democrats' agenda.

about 6 years ago

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aluminum laptop case

I rembermber this: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.

almost 6 years ago

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