Trump’s brawls, Hillary’s emails, Biden’s brief buzz — it’s impossible not to know that the 2016 election season is heating up. With voters spending more time on digital screens, political campaigns are expected to follow them into the digital universe.
As a result, many expect this 2016 election to have a huge impact on the digital advertising industry— Borrell Associates reports that online political advertising will reach nearly $1 billion in the upcoming election, over six times that of the previous presidential race.
The promise of digital advertising is the ability to reach the right person with the right message in the right environment. Good news for candidates with a digital presence, particularly in programmatic buying, this promise can be realized at an affordable price point while yielding quantifiable results.
But political marketers need to put up safeguards to protect themselves from a few key concerns.
Candidates are eager to reach voters wherever they may be within the digital universe. But as a number of premium brands discovered when their ads preceded ISIS jihadist videos, wherever isn’t always the best idea.
How is such a faux pas possible? Programmatic advertising is automated, and problems can occur when a programmatic platform is too centered on targeting users and not enough on where the ad is placed.
For instance, let’s say you want to build stronger support from men ages 25 to 54. If the platform concentrates on gender and age, your campaign messages may end up on sites whose visitors overwhelmingly fit those demographics.
For example, a pro-gun control candidate ad could follow a user to a firearms blog. Or worse, a wholesome family-values candidate ad could show up on a porn site.
When ads are poorly placed, politicians risk hurting not only their brand, the placement also invites weakness. Imagine an opponent snapping a screenshot of the ad and using it against them. In the heat of a campaign where even one gaffe could mean defeat, brand safety solutions aren’t optional.
Embrace the tools at hand to target the right environments on programmatic platforms, block the wrong ones across any media partner, and ensure all associations formed online are the best ones possible.
Candidates have limited budgets, and every dollar spent in digital advertising must help a campaign achieve very specific goals, whether it’s to sway undecided voters or to attract financial supporters.
While digital marketing is revered for its extraordinary efficiency, there are two issues all campaigners must be cognizant of: fraud and viewability.
1) Fraud—usually bot traffic and phony Web sites—has plagued digital advertising since its inception, and it’s easy to waste campaign dollars without proper controls. Bots – computer programs designed to act like humans (i.e. filling out a voter form or clicking an ad) – can make their way onto even the most premium sites. In our most recent industry report, an estimated 10.9% of traffic was identified as fraudulent.
2) Viewability is just as important. Every day, marketers pay for ads that will never be seen by a person because those ads appear outside of the person’s computer screen. For instance, your campaign ad may appear at the bottom of a page, but the user never scrolls down. In such cases, that ad was "unviewable" — money is wasted. Without controls, an ad is still paid for, even though it wasn’t seen.
Target the 43% of media that will be viewed, and therefore also free of fraud. Choose the media sellers and programmatic platforms that operate with viewability as targeting criteria — and buy with confidence. Note that this is not universal — campaigners must ask media partners if they have the capability before launching any campaigns.
Develop or ensure media quality safeguards are in place, whether they’re buying directly from publishers or through programmatic partners. Once in place, political marketers can rest assured that they are reaching real voters with their message in an affordable, consistent way.The tech race to the White House and Congress isn’t just affected by how effectively the GOP will incorporate digital strategies or whether the DNC will replicate the success of Obama’s cave. It’s also about how media quality can tip the scales as easily as a swing state.