The 2012 election season has come and gone, and those selling digital video advertising are likely still catching their breath. It was a whirlwind season that saw political advertisers on the national, state and regional levels heavily invest in digital, so much so that demand and corresponding CPMs were increasing right up to Election Day.
It was absolutely thrilling to watch and take part in the prominent role that digital video advertising played in this year’s election. From shortages of inventory in the key swing states to the leveraging of voter audience segments for precise targeting, ad sellers, publishers and campaign strategists will surely spend the immediate future learning from and preparing more for the next time around.
One thing we could all improve upon is the accurate projection of available state-specific inventory. Everyone in the video ad-selling ecosystem needs to be prepared for an inventory crunch like we just experienced. Video was such a big piece of political ad strategy this year that many were even expecting inventory shortages months in advance. Those forecasts proved to be true, especially in the hotly contested swing states that ultimately decided the election, including Virginia and Ohio. Several key players ran into delivery issues, and it was very tight for some other premium publishers. A mere day before voters cast their ballots, we were hearing that some sellers were trying to ramp up their video views to ensure full delivery on what they had promised.
As many know, delivering more inventory is not as easy as simply producing more videos. Even when publishers successfully drive increased viewership, they stilll need to be mindful of a viewer’s tolerance level and try to balance consumer brand advertisers with political advertisers. In critical times like these, it's vital that publishers not scare away their highly sought-after audiences. Instead, they need to strive to find the right balance and cadence for serving political campaign videos.
In the time period between election seasons, brand advertisers can look to some of the strategies used by the political buying platforms, incorporating them into their own media strategies and corresponding plans. The precise direct targeting leveraged by the campaigns could certainly be helpful to brand and local advertisers year round, emphasizing more “output” moving forward.
The best news overall is that the election proved to be good for digital publishers and ad sellers across the board. These kinds of feverish buying sprees are extremely rare in any form of advertising, but the 2012 election cycle was a true sign of video’s maturation. As the video market continues to improve, we should expect to see even bigger online investment from the political sphere in four years. Even better, we now have a look at what full digital video sell-through looks like, and publishers will have learned how to improve their systems and deliver for their brand advertisers outside of an election cycle. An influx of campaign dollars was a veritable endorsement of digital video as an advertising medium -- certainly indicating more good things to come in the market.