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Owens' Google spots prompts online ad war with Doheny

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Democratic Rep. Bill Owens' campaign launched a commercial yesterday that instructed viewers to Google Matt Doheny, his Nov. 6 opponent.
When you did so, the campaign's own website assailing Mr. Doheny's business background came up as the top advertised result.
That means that the campaign paid Google to show up when people searched for Mr. Doheny, a Republican of Watertown.
The campaign targeted the search result to come up on computers that are actually in the north country. It's the new frontier of digital advertisements, said Josh Koster, a partner at digital-media firm that is working with several high-profile political clients.
"It was clever," Mr. Koster said. "I tip my hat to whoever did this."
Mr. Koster said that few people who see the ad would actually look up Matt Doheny on Google, but the ad serves a broader purpose. Much like citing the Encyclopedia Britannica a generation ago, citing Google gives the claims in the ad a certain amount of cachet.
"The fact that someone said, 'Google it,' means it's a credible citation," Mr. Koster said.
I contacted the Doheny campaign earlier and asked if they had taken out search-specific ads on Google. The campaign said it hadn't.
But a few hours later, the campaign had. Now, when you search for Matt Doheny in Google, an ad for his website is the second that comes up, after mattdohenyfacts.com. And when you search for Bill Owens, his website comes up, too. The campaign also has paid ads that come up on searches related to NY21 and New York's 21st Congressional District.
A caveat here: In Google's eyes, each computer is its own unique little snowflake. So my search results won't be the same as yours, based on my past searches. So if you're not getting the same results, that's why.
Mr. Koster said this is the first television ad for a House race that he's seen to prompt people to search someone on Google. Previous viral videos encouraged Ron Paul supporters to do the same. Mr. Koster, whose firm's website says it focuses on progressive campaigns, lauded the Owens campaign's efforts.
"Whoever is doing the media is doing a really good job," Mr. Koster said. "Matt Doheny's campaign is trying to play catch-up."

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