2016: Is Digital Media Finally Not New?

It has been 10 years since I first planned an online advertising campaign for a political client. Back then, it was mostly Blogads, a unique unit of image and text that ran on, you guessed it, blogs. There were no Facebook ads, there was no YouTube, there were no iPhones. It is remarkable to think how far we’ve come.

“Digital” as a means of communication and marketing has evolved, as has our understanding of how to use the tools and tactics that label encompasses. Concepts that were once novel —i.e., building email lists of supporters to whom you could message directly in near real time — are now campaign pillars. But campaigns are notoriously slow to adapt. The stakes are high, and no one wants to be part of the campaign that lost because they invested in something unproven. Through deliberate testing and validated successes, coupled with the natural evolution of behavior and trends, what was an experiment one cycle gradually becomes a go-to.

This year, for the first time, spending on digital advertising is expected to break the $1 billion mark, and represent, on average, nearly 10% of campaigns’ advertising spend. To put this in context, in 2010, Google’s political marketing materials touted “10% in ’10!”, an attempt to establish a benchmark for campaigns when planning their digital budget. In 2016, Google is advocating 20%, which is to say, we’re getting there.  From presidential campaign announcements on Snapchat to press releases touting a new Facebook ad, campaigns are no longer asking whether it's worth investing in digital, but how much and on what platforms?

These are a few things we’re excited about for 2016:


Facebook is generally categorized as “social media,” but that misses the true value of the platform. Facebook as an advertising platform is a marketer’s dream and the backbone of many online advertising programs. From the targeting techniques, to the cost-efficient objective-based campaigns, to the increasingly user-friendly self-serve backend, Facebook works. More than anything, Facebook has tremendous reach — and tremendous reach with real, identified people across computers, tablets, and phones — and for campaigns, this is gold.

Mobile + Out of Home

You know those ads you see in the elevator? You can buy those, and you buy mobile ads targeted to anyone who goes into the building — even after they’ve left. This is a great strategy for reaching people based on where you know they go during the day. At work? Ad. Stepping out for coffee? Ad. Playing on their phone at home while watching TV? Ad again. This might seem excessive, but multiple touch points are key, particularly in an over-saturated media space.


We know people don’t consume news and entertainment the way they used to, and television ads are also getting smarter, in their literal targeting and also in their rollout strategy. Campaigns are thinking not just about what spot will air during the 5 o’clock news, but when they will post it to the web, how they will release it on social, and if they might need a separate video for digital entirely. Progress indeed.

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