Google denied Wednesday that it gave President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign special access to a new advertising program, something a sales representative from the search and advertising giant had claimed in an email to customers.
It all started with a new ad program that would charge clients for every email address (or other piece of user data) they collect. So, when a staffer at the Republican National Senatorial Committee (RNSC) saw the Obama campaign ad — “a display ad on Real Clear Politics built using this technology requesting user’s e-mail address” — which wasn’t actually a Google ad — but the staffer assumed it so — and emailed her Google sales rep about getting something similar for the GOP.
The saleswoman, Sirene Abou-Chakra, told the RNSC staffer that the cost-per-lead ad type wasn’t yet widely available, and that Obama had a special deal. Here’s the text of the email:
This is a pre-alpha product that is being released to a select few clients,” she wrote in an email, referring to the first stage of a product’s roll-out. “I’d be happy to get you into the beta if you’re interested.
This certainly sparked some outrage that Google had given Democrats access to a product test that wasn’t being equally offered to Republicans. News outlets trotted out the fact that Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt sits on the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.
A Google spokesman Jake Parrilo denied strenuously that the Obama campaign had been granted special access to the pilot program, and went so far as to say that the salesperson had engaged in inaccurate “puffery.” Parrillo told POLITICO that the Republican and the Democratic political ad sales teams at Google are kept separate and are unaware of the other side’s projects or deals.
The ad that appeared on RealClearPolitics, he said, was not a Google ad at all.
“This’s an experiment and while we generally don’t comment on those experiments we can tell you that we’ve not sold a single CPL [cost-per-lead] ad unit to any political candidates or committees,” said Parrillo.
And Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt seconded the company’s account that the campaign had not purchased any ads or enrolled in the Google pilot program.