The midterm elections are heating up. With the 2018 congressional elections generating more attention than past midterms, the stakes are high for advertisers. 2018 is set to be a record year for political ad spending that’s forecasted to reach $8.8 billion, according to Borrell Associates.
The revelations of Russian meddling and fake ads on Facebook has brought a heightened focus on transparency in political advertising. And while both Facebook and Twitter have announced stricter guidelines to curb manipulation, these changes only address part of the issue. Social media platforms are still rampant with bots.
In an unpredictable and hyper-competitive political climate - with hundreds of congressional and gubernatorial races taking place - political advertisers must rethink their midterm media buying strategy to ensure that they are running brand-safe and effective campaigns to reach the right voters.
The rise of connected TV or OTT advertising is a new phenomenon for political advertising, as this was nascent during the 2016 elections. With nearly 200M OTT viewers in 2018, per eMarketer, connected TV is TV.
The exponential growth in streaming audiences bring an entire new medium of opportunities for political advertisers as 78% of U.S. consumers subscribe to at least one OTT service, per PwC. In fact, of OTT U.S. viewers registered to vote, 96% indicated they vote in presidential elections, 86% in stateside elections and 82% in local elections, according to Nielsen Scarborough data.
So how does the connected TV environment address political advertisers’ top concerns and help them to reach the voters that matter?
With constrained budgets, candidates need to be resourceful in their media spend to achieve specific campaign goals — to sway undecided voters and attract financial supporters.
While digital media offers granular targeting capabilities, there is significant brand safety risks. Inventory sourced through a programmatic exchange is often times remnant and advertisers may not even know the placement until after the campaign delivers.
Fraud, in the form of bot traffic and phony web sites, was rampant in the 2016 elections. Viewability is another major issue: a campaign ad that appears at the bottom of a web page may never get viewed if the user never scrolls down. In a digital environment of low transparency and limited safeguards, campaign dollars can easily go to waste.
Unlike digital, in a walled-garden connected TV or OTT platform, advertising runs on trusted networks with authenticated viewers. Content on connected TV devices take up the full screen, making it unlikely an ad is not be fully viewable.
Since OTT viewers are not channel-surfers, as they’ve self-selected the programming, they represent a highly engaged audience.
Avoid getting preempted in a high stakes race
Preempted spots are TV ad spots, both broadcast and cable, that get bumped from the schedule when another advertiser pays more money for a specific time slot. In a high stakes political race, the chances are high for a campaign to be preempted as spending spikes.
When an advertiser gets preempted, they have to pony up more money or scramble to find other ways to advertise or risk derailing their campaign. And since, there’s only a short window to get a campaign message out, a ‘makegood’ (where a missed spot runs at a later date) could end up being a wasted spend.
In this instance, it’s imperative for political advertisers to have guaranteed impressions to be effective. Getting in front of voters and constituents that matter most to a campaign requires more precision in targeting.
OTT is addressable; it has the ability to serve different ads to different audience segments watching the same programming. Political advertisers can leverage richer datasets to target voters by political affiliation, congressional district, income, education level and other interests.