If 2008 Was 'Youtube Election,' What Is This? Answer Might Surprise You

In 1964, the first political attack ad -- the infamous “Daisy” spot against Barry Goldwater -- only ran on a handful of broadcast television stations, and only for one day, but the effects were felt throughout the entire campaign.

Gone are the days when political advertising was that simple.Every Presidential election since has seen big leaps in marketing tactics with each cycle, whether it was the first, issue-oriented websites that launched in 1996, or Barack Obama’s domination of earned media in 2008 that was helped along by a steady stream of content on YouTube, email blasts and text messages.

This election is no different. Without giving away too much secret sauce, we can confirm that groups running ads in the November election are making sizable investments in real-time media buying -- not just buying targeted display ads to drive donations, but also, notably, in video advertising, where persuasion power is likely greatest. Ads run with a variety of publishers, from pre-roll on YouTube to sports broadcasts to videos running on news sites around the country.

In an election where everything can change in a minute, real-time buying offers flexibility to shift budgets, creative, site mix and geographic targets in minutes rather than days, often overshadowing what concerns remain about inventory quality. For instance, if energy policy becomes a key issue overnight in a region -- say, Ohio coal country -- a campaign can create an ad campaign on the fly, targeting specific audiences and Zip codes with a video (maybe an existing ad or quickly edited campaign speech) that explains a candidate’s position, and turn off all other ads that might be running in that region.

Real-time buying can also help as media becomes scarce in the days preceding an election. Campaigns can invest exclusively in a smaller set targeting likely voters in swing states, and retargeted supporters can be shown a different set of creative aimed more at “getting out the vote” in the days leading up to an election.

As in elections past, the tactics used in this election may well be a preview of what is to come for the marketing world generally.

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