Commentary

If Politics Is Hurting Your Advertising, New Video Formats Can Help

It’s not even autumn yet, and election-cycle burnout has already begun.

No one may be more agitated by election season than nonpolitical marketers. Political campaigns and the groups that support them shell out billions in ad dollars, pushing out consumer brands, particularly in crucial campaign states.

Inventory scarcity and ad rates will increase throughout quarter three and the beginning of quarter four this year. Advertisers in powerhouse states such as Virginia, Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, and North Carolina will see especially tough competition and pricing. We got a glimpse of this in Iowa ahead of the caucus this year, when TV ad spots were sold out for one to two weeks at a time. In the fall, we’ll see the same situation playing out in 15 states all at once.

In digital media, premium in-stream video sources will likely bump up their rates or sell out of inventory as all the election races heat up. This high demand will leave many marketers unable to meet inventory demands. Some buyers have already reported that they could not secure biddable ad space in advance of certain state primaries after doubling and even tripling their bids.

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Brands could opt out of election season television spots altogether. I’ve seen an increase in pre-roll buys attached to premium online video content, even among clients who typically shy away from that option. But there’s finite inventory on truly premium content, so brands can’t rely on it to get them through the rest of the election year.

Instead, new video formats that didn’t exist in previous election years have become a crucial part of 2016 video plans.

Outstream and In-Feed Video to the Rescue

The most significant addition to the video ad tool set in recent years is in-feed video, particularly within social platforms.

Beyond social feeds, there are also in-feed video placement options within a variety of content feeds. These units differ from the often-forced viewing environment of in-stream pre-roll, so a marketer’s creative and KPIs should be tailored for the format.

Outstream video ad units (the ones that emerge within content as a user scrolls down a page) create inventory where it didn’t exist before. Brands’ standalone ads are served within articles and other content on publishers’ sites or within mobile apps. Outstream allows marketers to place video messages on premium sites and provides channels to scale campaigns across in-demand digital publishers.

New video formats are cost-effective for advertisers who can’t compete with political campaigns in sought-after channels and sites. For example, political marketers are rapidly scaling programmatic buys this year because of precise data-targeting options. It’s the same reason these marketers advertise heavily in data-rich digital environments like Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social platforms. When advertisers compete for the same user, prices skyrocket quickly. It may be difficult to challenge deep political pockets, but new video formats can ensure that marketers’ messages are still getting in front of audiences through newly created inventory.

Nonpolitical advertisers will feel the tightest pinch in broadcast TV this year, but the problem affects any media. Even when there is enough inventory available for all advertisers, elections will drive up prices, and TV spots will become unattractive — or unattainable — for many brands. The same will happen with premium digital platforms such as Hulu, Facebook, and other marquee publishers. Exploring new video ad formats will make more and more sense for consumer brands that want to reach their audiences effectively during election season.

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