Digital Marketing Strategies for Political Campaigns

Posted on September 12, 2019 by Nuno Andrade

Topics: Video, Digital

It goes without saying that there is a lot of money spent during political races.

Several of the most expensive political campaigns in history have been run in recent years, with approximately $6.3 billion spent in 2016 and more than $5 billion in spending in the 2018 midterm elections. Estimates put political ad spending for the upcoming 2020 elections at over $10 billion, with over $6 million having been spent already by Presidential candidates despite the election being more than a year away.

As political ad spending has increased, so has the use of digital marketing platforms by candidates and political action groups. In fact, of the $6 million that has already been spent for the 2020 elections it is estimated that around $5 million has been put toward social media advertising.

Given the easy access to voters and targeting tools that digital advertising provides, the trend toward highly digital political campaigns is likely just beginning.

Data-driven marketing

One reason that a lot of political advertising is shifting from traditional media to digital is that digital platforms offer a number of options for data-driven marketing opportunities.

In fact, some of these opportunities have only recently become fully realized and weren’t even available during some past election cycles. This places the 2020 election and future elections to follow in a position where campaigns and political activists can target voters in ways that were previously not possible.

These data-driven marketing solutions include options such as cross-device marketing that tracks and targets voter habits across multiple electronic options. You are likely familiar with this concept already as it is used by a number of major retailers; this is why you can search for a product or service on your home computer and then receive relevant ads on your smartphone, tablet or other devices afterward.

The same tools and tactics that were originally developed as components of multi-channel and omnichannel commercial marketing are now poised for use by political campaigns.

Improved voter targeting

Due to the large amount of data available to political marketers, more advanced voter targeting options are now available for political ads.

Geolocation-based targeting is useful when targeting voters who live or work within specific districts or geographic regions; this ensures that less ad money is wasted on voters who live outside of the area that a political message is most relevant to. Advances in neuroscience and social theory have also enabled more precise targeting of political ads based on psychological state, mood and how ad viewers react to content on an emotional level.

This last piece will be especially important in political advertising moving forward. Appeals to emotion are increasingly common in the political arena, and being able to target voters with ads that play into specific emotions has the potential to amplify these emotion-based political messages even further.

Data drawn from personality tests, quiz results and more can all factor in to how these ads target based on emotion, giving political advertisers a very powerful tool in controlling exactly how their messages are received by the voting public.

Programmatic political advertising

Programmatic advertising is very hot in the digital marketing world, so it only makes sense that political advertisers would want to take advantage of its benefits as well.

These ads use advanced computer algorithms and software to buy advertising space as it is needed across multiple platforms, targeting specific consumers within specified contexts. The appeal to political campaigns is obvious, as programmatic advertising once again gives a greater amount of control to the advertiser when it comes to how viewers are targeted and how ads are received. Programmatic advertising allows ads to “follow” targets across multiple platforms, only appearing on those where the message would appear in the advertiser’s desired form or context.

Programmatic advertising has been used in politics previously, and was actually one of the biggest differences in the 2016 elections and those elections that came before. The 2016 election was actually considered to be the first time ever that political ad targeting with such a high degree of precision has been available to candidates and their campaigns.

Programmatic as an advertising tool has continued evolving in the years since, however, and looks to play a much larger role in politics moving forward.

OTT and social advertising

Alternative forms of advertising such as OTT and social advertising will also play a larger role in politics moving forward.

As OTT and connected TV platforms become increasingly common among consumers, the wealth of potential marketing platforms and viewer access that they provide is too great of an opportunity to pass up. Likewise, with billions of people around the world using social media platforms it would not make sense for political advertisers to not embrace the access and connections that social advertising offers.

It is also worth noting that all of these platforms and strategies are still evolving. While social media access, OTT adoption rates and marketing techniques such as programmatic advertising and emotion-based targeting could play a big part in the 2020 election, digital marketing will almost certainly play an even larger role in 2024.

As the internet and the connected human experience continues to evolve in the coming decades, new digital marketing tools, platforms and opportunities will continue to emerge. As they do, political advertisers will be there to figure out how to incorporate these options into their already-extensive digital marketing plans.

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