Case Study: How a small online ad buy can reverberate across the media landscape.

Case Study: How a small online ad buy can reverberate across the media landscape.

Social Media | Judette Coward-Puglisi

March 8, 2010











You remember Lou Dobbs? 

He  was  the longtime CNN reporter who resigned from the network  due to mounting pressure  from media watchdogs and groups (representing Latinos and immigrants) for comments televised on the network. Many (liberals) alleged that those comments were defamatory. 

The Dobbs resignation though is a great case study (as told to  E politico)  of  how small social media budgets can create great impact.

The bold comments are my own.

Find the story behind the story to get the attention of mainstream press.             

“We would make an amazing ad to drive donations, yet too controversial for CNN to accept. If the campaign raising enough money to air the ad during "Latino in America" wasn’t enough to generate press, then the placing, the inevitable rejection and subsequent runs on other networks would. All the while, MediaMatters and would run their own petition to drop Lou Dobbs, thus building a narrative that appreciated the commitment of the coalition.”

2) Create multiple ads for your facebook platform, it keeps the message fresh and can be segmented for various  audiences.

“We needed to gain and keep the press’s attention, so we deployed digital paid media to target media employees specifically. The Facebook feature "workplace targeting" was our primary weapon. 

We targeted all CNN/AOL-Time Warner employees with 500 points per day (the Facebook max). We ran dozens of different ads, testing message hooks from "Why did you let Lou Dobbs broadcast from a hate rally?" to "Why is CNN profiting off racism?" We even called out CNN’s on-air talent by name: "Hey Soledad O’Brian, why don’t you ask Lou Dobbs what it’s like to be Latino in America," to ensure the CNN staff was sending screenshots between departments. We also workplace targeted the staff of the 25 biggest political and national news outlets in the country.

To those CNN employees, it must have seemed like we were making massive ad buys when, in fact, what we did cost us about $1,750. In a matter of days, about 900 mainstream media employees (one in four from CNN) had seen the TV spot and knew what we were up to.

The majority of the Facebook budget was spent running the ads to progressives and Latinos with a hard fundraising ask. ) Not only were we delivering about 500,000 ad impressions per day, but we were also raising money from our clicks. 

By the end, the ads were paying for themselves, which allowed us to spend much of this budget again on TV.

3) A combination of owned and earned media work in tandem and will help to reinforce your  strategy

“Within 24 hours, we also launched banner ads that paired the best performing imagery, hook and call-to-action from the Facebook ads on political blogs. 

We understood that blogs tend to break political news first and reporters read them compulsively. 

About $10,000 was enough to buy the entire available liberal blog inventory in both Atlanta and Washington, D.C., as well as all of the major Latino political blogs nationwide for over a week. 

More importantly, because bloggers approve the ads that run on their sites, these ads ensured sympathetic bloggers knew the message right away. This made the client’s aggressive blog outreach much easier.”

4) Google remains a key element  in an on-line strategy

We also leaked the story of the digital buy to ClickZ — one of the most well-read digital advertising publications. We choose them because an editor named Kate Kaye is the foremost journalist covering political digital ads, and they are exceedingly well syndicated and search engine optimized. (Anything that they post triggers dozens of Google Alerts.) This post led to a post by MediaBistro — the insider rag for journalists — and the story exploded from there.

Soon, we were the top return for Google, Google News and Google Blog Search for the phrase "Lou Dobbs."

Here  are  the takeaways

The size of the audience you reach online matters a lot less than reaching the right  audience, in this case not just reporters but also bloggers and activists who could help spread the word and keep the pressure on CNN.

Finally, careful targeting can make a campaign seem omnipresent and a far more potent force than it might actually be.

Marketers need to be aware  all these platforms  and include them  in their own strategic arsenal. When faced with an angry public marketers and communicators  should be ready to engage immediately and  not  be coming to terms with the functions and usage of social media.