While a thorough postmortem on the 2016 election will have to wait, it’s safe to say little has gone as predicted this election season.
Bernie Sanders became one of the Democratic Party’s most successful insurgents ever, connecting with Millennials online via digital video ads delivered cross-screen and cross-channel. Jeb Bush, who entered the race as the clear Republican front-runner, relied solely on old-school campaign tactics and pumped almost $81 million into TV ads, which proved fatal.
Conversely, Donald Trump’s gift of earned media, primarily in broadcast, and his firestorms on Twitter, unprecedented in a presidential race, helped win the Republican nomination. We’ll see on Election Day how his avoidance of traditional campaign tactics, including staffing, advertising and messaging will play out.
It’s been a fascinating election cycle and there are already several takeaways that could affect the future of American politics, particularly as it relates to how campaigns engage and persuade voters beyond 2016.
The Future of Political Is Programmatic
In 1980, 25.7% of eligible voters showed up to vote in both parties’ primaries; in 2004, that number dropped to 14.7%
This year, 28.5% of eligible voters participated in the primaries, demonstrating again that American elections are decided by a small number of people. Campaigns need robust audience technology tools that enable them to reach precisely the right voters at precisely the right time with specific messages.
Early in the election cycle, those messages were designed to motivate targeted constituents to action, including visiting a candidate’s site, making a donation or sharing information across social media. As we quickly approach Election Day, campaigns have shifted into the persuasion phase and get-out-the-vote efforts.
The value of programmatic means that, in each phase, digital campaigns can deliver ads cross-device and auto adjust for optimal frequency and recency to maximize campaign message effectiveness.
The Future of Political Is Not Big Data But Smart Data
To be effective in our increasingly fractured political landscape, we’ll need something sharper than the ability to process big chunks of information. We’ll need systems that deliver real insights about real voters in real time.
Companies that believe their mission is being in the automation business or even the advertising business are likely to sink. We’re really entrusted with capturing people’s attention.
To do that, we must know who voters are, what they want and why. This also suggests that, side-by-side with technological advancements, human expertise will command a higher premium.
The Future of Political Is Mobile
As Americans spend more time on their smartphones, campaigns enjoy new opportunities to advertise on mobile. These include geo-targeted, hyperlocal campaigns that drive grassroots movements with multiscreen experiences cross-device. Mobile offers the ability to create interactive content that allows voters to connect directly with a candidate’s social platform or site, securing donations, volunteers and votes.
The Future of Political Is Video
Earlier this year, Google reported that from spring 2015 through spring 2016, more than 110 million hours of candidate- and issues-related content was viewed on YouTube.
Smart campaigns and Super PACs have recognized the need to produce video content that is edifying, entertaining and engaging. Partnering with a technology company that tailor ads to connect directly with voters will make a difference come election time.
In the next few weeks and in future, much will be written about the campaigns run by Clinton and Trump, including the effect of their digital and TV advertising choices. It’s a fair bet the strategists for the 33 Senate seats and 36 governorships up for election in 2018 are already planning their digital media strategies.