It's not just Barack Obama who believes in the power of Barack Obama. John McCain believes in it too.
Google provides a big return on a small investment for the candidates, because campaigns only have to pay each time their ads are clicked.
The McCain campaign has at least two different advertisements with Google AdWords that use Obama's name to direct users to McCain's Web site.
AdWords are text-based ads that appear on a viewer's screen next to the list of Google search results. Advertisers bid on search terms using an automated process based on what users are searching for at that moment; placement of the ads is determined by who won the bid and the relevance of the ad. Advertisers pay per ad clicked.
Both of McCain's AdWords have the headline, "Obama for President?" followed by a pitch for McCain. Under the heading, one ad asks, "Why Not Learn More About John McCain for President" with a link to the candidate's Web site. The second ad reads, "Lean More About John McCain's Journey on the 08 Campaign Trail" and also includes a link to McCain's home page.
Searching for the term "Obama for president" brought up both McCain ads, which appeared in the top five search results on the first page.
Obama isn't the only presidential moniker that the McCain team latched on to. Searches for Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney -- as well as the word "president" -- also bring up AdWords for McCain, with similar language to those appearing next to the Obama results.
Christian Ferry, McCain's deputy campaign manager, said bidding on the names is part of a much larger online strategy that takes advantage of frequently searched terms.
"We buy hundreds or thousands of different AdWords -- that's monitored all the time," Ferry said. "It's based on what's going in the news cycle [that is] relevant to the 2008 cycle."
McCain's camp may not be alone in using another candidate's name to push its own Web site.
As a policy rule, Google won't disclose the names of search-term bidders. But Peter Greenberger, the director of Google's politics and issue advocacy arm, said that Google has already sold more advertising to the presidential candidates for the 2008 election than it did during the entire 2004 presidential cycle.
"An increasing number of candidates are buying the names of their competitors and buying key words around specific issues that voters are looking for," Greenberger said.
Obama staffers wouldn't comment on the McCain ad or volunteer any of the search terms bid on themselves. In an e-mail, however, campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted that the "campaign purchases ads through Google Adwords on a variety of political sites to reach an expanded audience of people who might be interested in learning more about his campaign to change this country."
Google provides a big return on a small investment for candidates, because campaigns only have to pay each time their ads are clicked. Campaigns can also micro-target supporters by tailoring ads based on browsers' geographical locations or users' preferences.
"If a voter is looking for information on health care and they're in New Hampshire, they could see ads that say, 'Granite Staters, learn about how my health care plan affects you,'" Greenberger explained.
The same goes for "psycho-targeting," which allows a campaign to tailor ads based on individuals' preferences or tastes. For example, voters who care about Vietnam veterans or POWs will find ads for John McCain when they type those search terms into Google or Yahoo, or visit other AdWords sites connected to those search terms.
David All, a Republican consultant, said the ads have been tremendously successful for his clients, who have been able to expand their outreach through bidding on popular search terms.
"When illegal immigration was hot, you plugged in all the key words associated with that and you would drive people to specific landing pages," he said. "You have them fill out an online poll or petition and you capture their information, and for a dollar or two per click, you end up building your lists."
The popularity of any Google search term is usually reflected by offline events that drive traffic online, according to Greenberger. So what does that say about John McCain's candidacy, if he's relying on the popularity of his opponents' names to push his own Web site?
So far, the McCain campaign says the strategy is working and online advertising is a growing part of its outreach plan.
"We've had incredible success to driving people to our site to John McCain's message and raising money as a result of keyword-buying on Google and other networks," Ferry said.