Commentary

IAB: Digital, Mobile Rival TV As Political Info Source

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) conducted a study on how registered voters interact with information about the 2016 presidential race. Their findings further endow digital media with concrete evidence that it is rivaling TV and quickly gaining in overall reach.

Most notably, “digital media has reached parity with TV as a primary information source about presidential candidates,” and barely loses out to TV as a source for general political issues.

Ad budgets look to mirror this reality in digital and mobile advertising, with increasing focus on developing engaging creative and drilling into granular audience targeting.

Especially among “Political Influentials,” digital media is a tremendously important medium. Seventy-eight percent of them are “particularly dependent on digital media” for information about politics.

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Indeed, heavy use of digital skews younger, with 35% of younger voters saying digital is their primary source of candidate information this cycle, compared to 23% of the total sample.

Primary users of online digital media are also more likely to take action after being served a political advertisement, with 71% of this group planning to be politically active, compared to 53% of the total sample.

Hispanic and African-American voters in particular are much more likely to interact with political information through mobile.

Sixty-seven percent of Hispanic and 60% of African-American voters explore political sites on mobile, compared to 49% of the total sample. Hispanic voters also respond better to mobile or digital advertisements, with 87% saying they have taken action after seeing an ad.

What is striking here is the direct positive correlation between an increase in the use of digital and being politically active. 

Social media also plays a big role: 31% of registered voters interact with political articles and links shared by friends on social media, 25% have seen a candidate ad and 24% have “defriended” or “unfollowed” someone due to the person’s political posts.

The IAB study dove deeper into the intricacies of digital engagement this cycle. Candidates who want to reach minorities will have to shift more of their ad budget over to digital, and specifically mobile. The engagement is better and targeting abilities are increasingly robust.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who does well among progressives, but fails to dent Hillary Clinton’s lead when it comes to minority voters, will surely have his team look at opportunities to improve his campaign’s mobile presence.

Republican candidates looking to engage a younger demographic and minority groups hope they have harnessed the digital opportunity as the primary season hits its first test in Iowa next week.

This column was previously published in Red, White & Blog on January 27. 2016.

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