Mumbai: The US presidential election provided an opportunity for some Indian companies such as Jet Airways (India) Ltd to plug their brands online.

Global popularity: Barack Obama at a campaign rally inVirginia on 28 October. The highest global search-hits for the word Obama came from Kenya, followed by the US, in the week preceding the elections. Jason Reed / Reuters

Two India-related brands that tried to capitalize on the election through search engine marketing and online campaigns were the Reuters India website and Telugu movie star Chiranjeevi’s fledgling Praja Rajyam Party, says Prasanth Mohanachandran, executive director, digital services, Neo@Ogilvy, an arm of OgilvyOne Worldwide.

The firm conducted a detailed study on search results in the run-up to the election.

Mahesh Murthy, founder of digital marketing firm Pinstorm, says his company leveraged election-related words for the Jet Airways campaigns for the Indo-US route and one for Canon dual camcorders (“capture the election", for instance) aimed at the Singapore market.

The number of people who saw Jet ads on 5 November on Google alone would have been more than twice the usual search volumes, he says.

There were personality-driven searches from an Indian viewpoint with respect to the US elections, says Murthy, adding that Obama-related words were sold at a 11% premium to McCain words on Google.

Amar Deep Singh, vice-president of digital marketing agency Interactive Avenues, says key election-related words delivered 20% more daily clicks for ads for client, a video and entertainment portal, with at least 50 US election-related videos in the lasts two days of the elections.

“The cost per click was 60% lower than the campaign average as there was hardly any competition on these key words. We regularly use these type of tactics to deliver value to our clients; we used it last time for and when the US financial meltdown was unfolding with results being declared by various companies such as Lehman Brothers, AIG, etc." Singh said.

Interestingly, Murthy claims that Indian searchers predicted the electoral college results. Obama-related searches outnumbered McCain-related searches 2.3:1, nearly the same as the electoral college results.

This ratio is based specifically on search volumes that the word Obama got versus McCain on 5 November for an international campaign that bought these words.

Words related to Sarah Palin, the running mate for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, outnumbered searches for her Democratic counterpart Joe Biden 5:1. Also, there were more searches for Obama than for generic US election-related key words, adds Murthy.

In India, Karnataka’s online community led the search for Palin in the month preceding the US election, followed by Maharashtra, Delhi and Tamil Nadu, according to Neo@Ogilvy.

Of course, the IT-savvy south Indian belt of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu dominated the search in India for issues such as outsourcing concerns. And, south Indian states topped the search charts globally for H1B—the US visa programme for tech and other workers—as a secondary word together with Obama, says Mohanachandran.

Interestingly, late US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream" speech started resonating stronger with online searchers in the US as the campaign advanced and financial turmoil deepened. From the No. 10 spot in the US three months before the election, it rose to No. 4 a month before.

No other country matched the US’ search-hit index of “Obama change", reflecting the fact that people there associated Obama with change, as his campaign promised, according to the Neo@Ogilvy study.

As a reflection of Obama’s Kenyan roots (Obama’s father was a Kenyan), the word Obama evoked the highest interest levels in Kenya followed by the US in the week preceding the elections, according to the study.

The Neo@Ogilvy study highlights that in the week leading to the US elections, the secondary words most searched for in conjunction with Obama included—“India Pakistan" searched most for by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu online in India, and Kenya, the US and Ethiopia worldwide; “outsourcing"—searched most by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and again Kenya, the US and Ethiopia worldwide.

Not surprisingly, BPO, or business process outsourcing, was searched for most by Internet surfers in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in India, and Kenya, the US and Ethiopia globally.

A more disquieting search glossary of words used with Obama included Kashmir and terrorism—both searched for most by Karnataka and Delhi in India and Kenya, the US and Ethiopia worldwide.