How 2016 Presidential Candidates Can Win the Digital Campaign Battleground

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, December 17, 2015

To win the White House in 2016, a candidate must build a likable and credible personal brand, demonstrate policy vision and generate millions in donations.

In constructing a digital advertising strategy to support these outcomes, political marketers would be wise to tap the playbook of leading brand marketers. This includes shifting advertising budget to platforms like Facebook, which connect brands to known audiences and are built on billions of consumer data points that can demonstrate what resonates with prospective voters.

Below are digital strategies that presidential candidates should use to amplify messaging impact, expand their base and capture donations.

1) Canvass unaffiliated voters

To tip the polls, use political interest targeting to serve ads to people who aren’t politically active or whose political leanings aren’t concrete, letting them know why their vote matters, and why one candidate is the right choice. Another way to extend campaign reach and widen the base by targeting lookalikes -- people with similar interests, engagement tendencies and behaviors to those in the voter file, or those who have donated or subscribed to emails.



2) Recapture donors

Use ‘remarketing pixels,’ better known as Website Custom Audiences, to remarket to people who display intent by visiting a Website’s donation page, but leave without donating. Further refine this audience to focus targeting on people with a higher likelihood to donate, such as those with high disposable income.

3) Apply digital insights across channels

Within hours of posting content, start learning which creative, audiences and story elements are having the greatest impact. Test low-cost digital video with slight voiceover variations against different segments to get insights that inform TV, radio and print strategies.

4) Learn about critical primary audiences with geo-targeted video

Before rolling out local or regional TV ads, measure which messages will resonate with prospective voters by pre-airing ads targeted to residents in key primary states.

5) Expose voters to the policy topics they care about

There are thousands of ways to segment Facebook users. Use this rich consumer data to deploy ads relevant to key audiences’ demographics, behaviors and interests and test a range of images, messaging and calls-to-action to understand which combinations perform best.

6) Campaign in key states before arriving on the ground

While hitting the pavement to win votes in key primary states, get a head start where you’ve yet to spend significant time, serving messages that introduce positions on topics of major local interest. A message about transportation infrastructure is likely to pique the interest of people in the tri-state area, for instance. Follow up with conversion-focused ads asking residents to join a mailing list.

7) Mobilize a constituency with ‘get out the vote’ messages

Just 38% of eligible 18-24 year-old voters cast a ballot in the 2012 presidential election. Serve ads featuring “get out the vote” messaging with greater frequency to Facebook users who aren’t “politically active”. Overlay political affinity targeting on top of this audience to avoid mobilizing the wrong audience.

Get creative and use DMV records data, integrated into Facebook targeting through partnerships with data providers like Datalogix, to target voters who don’t own a car with offers to transport them to the polls.

8) Test new advertising options

Use Facebook lead ads, an ad unit that simplifies mobile signups and conversions by prefilling forms with information from user’s profiles, to drive people into a donor pipeline. Use Facebook’s “Place Tips”, a hyper-local targeting feature that pushes offers to people when they’re located in a store, to follow up with people who just attended a rally or speaking event, reminding them that their support is needed.

These tactics may seem arcane or even too sophisticated for some candidates. But, those candidates with winning strategies for social will employ most if not all of these tactics. Brands that succeed in social have roadmaps like this one. Smart candidates will, too.

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