Russia’s first online election campaign

Sunday’s presidential election may be a five-person race but you wouldn’t know it from trawling the Russian internet. As Russian daily Vedomosti notes today, only two of the candidates have been taking advantage of online ad spending: Mikhail Prokhorov and Vladimir Putin.

Internet and advertising executives polled by Vedomosti estimate that Putin’s campaign is spending $1.5 to $2m on internet ads – with media spending now equally spread across internet, TV and outdoor advertising, according to one Kremlin official. Meanwhile, the prime minister has also received support from a few off-colour videos that surfaced on the web this week.

The videos, which were created by advertising agency Aldus ADV, depict three underage beauties visiting a psychiatrist, doctor or fortune teller with questions about their “first time”. “Above all, you need to remember about safety,” advises the doctor, before pointing to a wall calendar displaying a picture of him and the prime minister. “With him it will be safe.” The video cuts to the young girl’s first time – at the polling booth.

In the other two videos, the fortune teller and psychiatrist offer similar advice, stressing that the first time should be about love “and without deceit”, and making a “choice you can trust”.

Aldus has not disclosed who commissioned the ads, or whether they were simply intended as a promotion for the firm itself. (You can watch the videos at, or the fortune teller clip with English subtitles on the Guardian’s website.)

Putin’s official campaign has taken a more traditional route. As search engine Yandex tells Vedomosti, the campaign has ordered one of the site’s special Rb15m ($510,000) political advertising packages, including 318m banner ads  on the its main search, mail and news pages. The ads have been running for three weeks and are being shown with greater frequency in the days leading up to Sunday’s vote.

The campaign has also run banner ads on, an internet portal, and on social networking site Odnoklassniki (also owned by Group).

The ads are, needless to say, more straight-laced than the ‘first time’ videos and simply lead to Putin’s campaign site: According to the internet and advertising executives that spoke to Vedomosti, the Putin banner ads have been viewed by 70 per cent of Yandex and users.

The online campaign represents a big shift for Russian politics. In previous years Russian politicians and political parties have capped online political ad spending in the six-digits.

And while the Communist Party’s Zyuganov, A Fair Russia’s Mironov and the nationalist LDPR party’s Zhirinovsky have yet to notice the shift, one person to embrace it is billionaire candidate Prokhorov.

Ads for the candidate have become a frequent sight on Facebook (the social network of choice for Moscow’s opposition protesters), while the tycoon has also spent Rb5bn on Yandex ad spending, Vedomosti reports.

In a sign of the changing times, the ads seem to have worked. As a spokesman for Prokhorov’s campaign tells Vedomosti, visits to Prokhorov’s site increased four times after the ads began showing.

Related reading:
Putin campaign spent $1.5-2m on internet ads, Vedomosti
Social networks pose challenge to Putin, FT
Racy Putin videos woo ‘first time’ voters, AFP
Putin advert targets Russia’s ‘virgin’ voters – video, Guardian

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