Timeline, Insight & Technology Trends Drive Presidential Monetization Strategies

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, July 15, 2016

While publishers like Buzzfeed have already refused a reported $1.3 million in campaign ad money from the RNC’s presumptive candidate, Donald Trump has been busy blacklisting and revoking press credentials from coast to coast, including Univision, the nation’s largest Spanish-speaking news organization, and legacy publisher The Washington Post, among numerous others.

We reached out to a select group of insiders and asked pointed questions about who’s been buying, who’s showing a knack for messaging, and what are publishers doing to get a leg up or even go above and beyond the status quo.

Below is a summary of those conversations, which offers some insights and trends taking place in the industry right now.

Presidential Patterns

Initially, we wanted to know what kind of interest or activity political parties and candidates have been showing in digital advertising. We found an array of experiences with one common thread: Digital ad buying will ramp up once the conventions get underway.

The Blaze, a multiplatform site founded by Glenn Beck for news, information and entertainment, serves a conservative Republican audience that’s right of center as well as “a slice of Americana,” according to national account manager Sean Donlon.

Donlon shared that except for some newsletter activity, his site had not yet seen a tremendous uptick in advertising activity from political parties or candidates during the primary season.

Donlon’s perspective is that budgets were invested locally and in swing states versus national digital publishers during the primaries. Now that the final candidates are clear and in the process of strategizing and filling their campaign coffers, he anticipates seeing national advertising budgets ramp up.

In contrast, leading independent news site World Net Daily has already received ample interest from advertisers, according to Andrew Sampson, advertising director. Peak campaign and super PAC interest occurred when there were multiple Republicans in the race.

As the timeline progressed and Trump became the sole Republican candidate, advertising interest slowed. Sampson expects increased activity to return, going into the general election, particularly after the national conventions.

At premium ad exchange Publir, where advertisers bid for placements in highbrow publications like The Atlantic and Real Clear Politics, co-founder Joseph Malchow reported a general trend of more emotional and identity-driven political messaging. It is akin to film and automotive ads being bid on through his programmatic platform, rather than more policy-driven spots.

Malchow said in election campaigns where two candidates are expected to fall within a couple points of one another, ads tend to use hyper-targeted messaging. 2016 has not been that kind of election.

Status Quo or Innovation Driven Political Strategy

We wanted to find out if any candidates or PACs are exhibiting particularly keen insight when it comes to various elements of the digital execution, such as with particularly ‘on point’ creative or an acumen for the medium itself, versus more of the status quo approach, i.e., cramming traditional political ads in any available piece of ad real estate.

According to Malchow, it’s clear that no side has a data edge over the other: “It seems to be the first year that bids on our private exchange from GOP PACs and Democrat PACs are matching against the same types of datasets.”

This trend continued at WND, where Sampson concurred:  “One thing that was quite interesting is that we didn't see too many ads or campaigns that were extremely savvy.”

With political advertisers in general, Sampson noted many PACs were first timers to digital.  

Donlon at The Blaze also hopes to see more insightful strategies from the parties recalling that historically Democrats have done a much better job from a social media standpoint. “I think Republicans need to reach people on different platforms and are realizing that now,” he commented.

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