Digital Political Advertising in the Spotlight: Trends to Watch in the 2018 Midterm

As we approach one of the most hotly contested midterm elections in memory, we already know one winner: digital advertising has clearly emerged as the preferred medium for both candidates and voters.

Digital advertising technology has continued to advance almost as fast as the political landscape, providing campaigns with more options than ever to effectively reach their audiences. But campaign strategists will also need to keep a close eye on the regulatory environment as regulators sort through potential concerns brought to light in the 2016 election cycle.

This environment demands a digital ad strategy that is equal parts advanced technology and human intuition. With more than 15 years of experience in helping political campaigns and organizations successfully navigate this ever-changing landscape, Division-D has built its business by helping political advertisers identify the right strategies to reach voters who are increasingly mobile and constantly immersed in content.



As we help our clients build their 2018 strategies, we are seeing four key trends driving this latest election cycle:

  • Seizing the big-screen digital opportunity. Connected TVs (or CTVs) have opened a range of new opportunities for political advertisers, including more targeted traditional ads and pre-roll video ads. These new types of ad buys deliver the best of both the digital and traditional TV advertising worlds – a more captive and attentive audience and watching on a big screen, but with targeting for relevance that isn’t possible with traditional broadcast buys. 
  • Making the digital-local connection. Particularly in mid-term election years, localized advertising is key. We’re seeing increased demand for our scalable network of local and regional newspaper and broadcast news websites. In addition to seeking strong reach across local channels, political advertisers are also looking for more finite geotargeting capabilities. If a congressional campaign needs to reach just one side of a city or county via a local outlet, the combination of a strong local news presence and hyperlocal geotargeting helps ensure no ad impression is wasted.
  • Cutting through the display ad clutter. We’re also seeing renewed interest in higher-impact ad formats like the Rising Star Billboard, which covers the entire width of the page, as well as the interstitial ad, which loads between pages in a separate window. These formats have proven to deliver strong engagement compared with traditional display ads. 
  • Targeting messages to the right voters, at the right time.Voter file targeting and voter affiliation targeting continue to advance, enabling advertisers to get their message in front of the right segment of voters at the right time. For example, a candidate may want to focus their message on likely undecided voters in the midst of a campaign, then shift to their likely base to help get out the vote as the election nears. This type of targeting has been common for the past several election cycles, and continues to improve over time. 

Campaigns and interest groups that focus their strategies in these emerging areas, while also maintaining the flexibility to navigate a changing regulatory environment, will be well-positioned to share their messages with the highest levels of efficiency and impact throughout the midterm election cycle.

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