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Whitman ups Facebook ante

July 27, 2010 |  5:58 pm

Facebook users have seen ads soliciting thoughts on everything from their favorite vacation spot to the best engagement ring.

Now Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman is using so-called polling ads to determine what Facebook users see as the most important issue facing California, hoping to boost her online network in the process.

The ad, dubbed “A New California,” goes live at 9 p.m. tonight and is the latest in the Whitman campaign’s effort to maximize the cascading effect of the social networking site. It will appear on the home page of voting-age Californians, asking them to vote for one of three issues: “creating jobs,” “cutting state spending” or “fixing education.” A notice will then appear in a user’s “news feed,” saying that the user is a "friend" of the poll, and encouraging the user to become a Whitman “fan.”

After about a week of voting, Whitman will address the winning issue in a Facebook video. Whitman's campaign refused to say how much they were spending on the ad.

“The Facebook ads play an important role in our aggressive strategy to build our online community of support and engage younger voters in the campaign,” said spokeswoman Sarah Pompei. “This is just the latest in the innovative communication tools our campaign is using to build the groundswell of support for Meg’s agenda.”

Whitman’s campaign says she’s the first candidate to use polling ads, though Facebook couldn’t confirm the claim, citing the privacy rights of its clients. The company did say the technology has been around since at least 2008, used primarily by big-brand advertisers.

As of 5:35 p.m., Whitman was slightly more popular than Brown by Facebook standards. She had 38,621 fans to his 36,854.

Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford dismissed the ads as “more gimmicks.”

“Meg Whitman even has to buy her friends,” he said.

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

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