Commentary

2016 Presidential Election Shifts From Cookies To Real Voters

The 2016 presidential election season has already proven to be a game changer for political advertisers and campaign strategists. In past election seasons, television was the medium for political advertising.

As far back as John F. Kennedy’s “Kennedy for Me” and Lyndon Johnson's “Daisy Girl” in the 1960s, to more recent ads like Ronald Reagan’s “It’s Morning in America Again” and George H.W. Bush’s “Revolving Door” from the 1980s, these powerful messages are remembered for having a direct impact on the outcome of elections.

Today, voters are increasingly either not watching television altogether, or when they do, they’re paying attention to another device throughout commercial breaks. Interestingly, 31% of likely voters didn’t watch live TV in the past week, and according to an eMarketer study from September, more than half of U.S. TV viewers are likely to multitask during Live TV.

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Put simply, although still an important cog in political marketing strategies, TV advertising just isn’t as effective as it once was.

The messaging on television needs to be reinforced. The big question: if a political advertiser wants to successfully influence voter opinion and achieve campaign objectives, where else should they be investing their ad spend?

According to Pew Research Center, 66% of voters are now viewing political content online, which means reaching voters where they are most impacted—mobile and web—can only be achieved with a highly targeted cross-screen approach.

While many politicians this election season have started spreading their messages across multiple screens, it’s harder to discern whether political advertisers are truly delivering messages to the right people.

Generally, digital advertising campaigns in recent years have used cookies to target specific messages to voters, using basic demographic information and online behavior. Cookies, however, do not provide political marketers with sufficient audience profiles, resulting in the delivery of creative that has little chance of influencing a potential voter.

Further, people are rejecting cookies more than ever, either by manually blocking them, or by regularly deleting them altogether from their cache, reducing the already limited amount of information being provided.

Increasingly, publisher first-party data, cross-referenced with public voter file data, is being used to maximize political marketing spend to effectively target and reach voters with relevant messages. This first-party data provides information about real voters, including, but not limited to, offline and online behavior as well as what devices they use. This ‘people-based’ approach enables political marketers to reach their audiences when and where it will be most impactful.

A recent study by Revolution Media concluded that when first-party member records were on-boarded for precision ad targeting, 71% of the candidates won in the general election. This indicates that first-party data can mean the difference between an elected and an unelected official.

Political advertisers need to spend wisely. Shifting from outdated cookie data to first-party voter data can deeply impact how they reach these voters. Geo-targeting, for example, is an ideal tactic for a campaign to reach specific constituents and states at the right moment.

By combining the precision a digital advertising campaign powered by first-party data to target individual voters, with the massive scale, and reach of traditional television to influence a wider demographic and create mass awareness, campaign strategists can rest assured their candidates’ messages are reaching audiences that matter.   

As demonstrated in past elections, battleground states, such as Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina and Iowa, have a major impact on the outcome of a campaign. Looking at real voter profiles and implementing geo-targeting with applicable messages is critical to the impact campaign advertising can have. From the first primaries to Election Day, these campaigns need to send relevant messages to voters’ mobile screens—the most personal of all devices—to influence turnout and results until the last poll closes.

The outcome of the 2016 Iowa caucus showed the success in using comprehensive data and geo-targeting in a political campaign creates. Senator Ted Cruz’s camp beat Donald Trump for the state’s nomination by executing an innovative, local issue-focused digital advertising ground campaign using data that helped them connect with Iowans’ interests, personalities, social profiles and more.

Cookie-based targeted advertising can’t replace the impact a campaign driven by first-party data can make in reaching individual voters. By leveraging first-party voter data and matching it with public voter records, political campaigns can recreate the effectiveness of the once-effective TV campaigns of years past, but in a digital environment across all devices with unparalleled precision.

1 comment about "2016 Presidential Election Shifts From Cookies To Real Voters".
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  1. Mary Beth Garber from Katz Media Group, April 27, 2016 at 12:49 p.m.

    Interesting approach.  Remember, though, that in several markets, politicos and analysts attributed several wins and losses largely to radio Hosts' opinions, support and attacks.  It is important to realize that radio, too, is a personally targeted medium, differentiated by its formats and content into Virtual Neighborhoods.  The combination of targeted digital and the influence of the right radio stations have to be a powerful weapon in winning elections.

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