Every two years, the rise of the political campaign cycle sends rifts through the advertising industry. Although disruptive to “business as usual,” each cycle provides a unique time capsule of the on-going evolution of the advertising industry, which often brings into the limelight the challenges that come with change. This year, as the presidential primary race ramps up, campaigns are exuding a level of sophistication not seen in years past. Thanks to technology, campaigns are better informed and in a better position to execute. This has spotlighted the quest for quality inventory, which has become a major advertising challenge, both for political campaigns and traditional brands alike.
The current election cycle is unique in that campaigns now have access to a wide range of ad tech that wasn’t available two years ago. This is perhaps most obvious in the rise of programmatic technology and the ability to execute media buys in milliseconds. With programmatic advertising, political campaigns are able to leverage their proprietary data sets to make instantaneous decisions on serving ads to their key segments. Combined with the use of big data, these campaigns are able to better identify key audience segments, and in turn, want to target against these newfound insights. In this quest for quality audiences, demand for quality inventory has increased.
Armed with new tools and myriad data, campaigns, like traditional businesses, are looking to targeting capabilities to optimize strategy and better reach their audience. Ad tech has enabled the pursuit of quality audiences, and politicians can be smarter about who they are targeting. This nuanced strategy has made quality inventory that much more desirable. What used to be likened to a firehouse — the “let’s buy everything I can afford” mentality — has morphed into a fine-tuned approach. Campaigns are now looking for quality over quantity. They want the best impressions possible to deliver their message.
This demand for quality inventory is not new to advertising. In fact, it’s something many brands face on a near-daily basis. As buyers become more informed about their desired audience, they understand the importance of quality inventory and their expectations are higher. This problem is exacerbated within the confines of the political ecosystem because here, quality inventory is finite. With a limited supply, demand is heightened and competition is fierce. This primary season serves as a great example. Although the primary elections are not until next year, the race to secure quality, highly coveted inventory is already in full speed.
This fight for quality is particularly prevalent within the local media landscape, where quality inventory is highly desirable for its contextual halo effect, but impressions are finite. The marketplace can be likened to a game of musical chairs — when the music stops, everyone needs to make sure they’ve got their chair to sit in (in this case, inventory). But with too many players and not enough chairs to go around, the fight for placement is heightened and the ability to access it is limited.
As the presidential campaign unfolds, the quest for quality impressions has taken center stage. This is a telling tale for the advertising industry, as it highlights the challenges rooted in both access and scale. While we ride the wave of the campaign lifecycle, perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned about our modern-day business. If nothing else, the heightened pursuit of quality audiences has shown that quality inventory is highly coveted, and advertisers must plan accordingly.