With the Republican National Convention in full swing in Tampa, the news media and general public are captivated with the storylines of the upcoming election. The story is extending into online video this year, where campaigns and causes on the national, state and local level are already spending more than ever before on video advertising.
There are certainly big months ahead, but political advertisers have to be smart about how they spend their money on video. They should be prepared to answer looming questions about supply, competition, and how much messaging consumers can withstand during election season.
What should be at the front of every political advertiser’s mind is that geo-focused demand from the political sector could be too significant for the current video supply. I’ve discussed this in previous columns, but suffice it to say that advertisers are mostly interested in quality programming that guarantees audience and certain markets of the country. The major parties and PACs are all competing with traditional brand advertisers for that same inventory, and many politically focused agencies are pre-buying inventory, where possible, securing their proverbial seat at the table for the September and October run. While the focus thus far has been swing-state inventory in addition to maintaining national messaging, this inventory will be even scarcer, unless we can substantially increase the available video impressions over the next two months.
Another issue relates to messaging. As consumers, we all know that come October in an election year, it feels like every commercial on broadcast TV is an attack ad. In the past, TV viewers sat through these commercials to get to the programming. Today, they can simply fast-forward on the DVR (which is why the majority of buying focus has been around local news on television, which is still considered appointment viewing). But most online video content owners do not offer DVR functionality to their viewers, and one has to wonder if viewers will even sit through a 15- or 30-second political pre-roll advertisement to get to the video payoff, especially if they do not agree with the message or are not politically minded.
For political advertising to be effective, politicians need their ad message to appear in front of premium, desirable video content. Finding the delicate balance between each political ad message and the number of video minutes consumed will be a key metric over the next two months.
Challenges for the political landscape lie not only in targeting viewers according to their audience profile and location, but also based on content and even political party preference. Each of these key factors should be weighed heavily. We will know the election results on Nov. 6, but we will still be learning from these ad experiences long into the future.