Commentary

Making Waves With Advanced TV Ads In Midterms

We won’t find out until late evening on November 6, 2018 whether a blue, red, or multicolored wave crashed over the American midterm elections. But there’s one thing we know: This election season is taking place during a growing wave of TV cord-cutting. This viewing behavior will likely impact the way in which mainstream audiences are reached with campaign messages.

eMarketer notes that cord-cutting and streaming platforms are eating traditional TV’s lunch. The number of Americans who have cancelled traditional TV service and continue without it will rise to 33 million in 2018. This is a 32.8% increase over last year — much higher than the 22% growth rate eMarketer projected last year for 2018.

Influencing voters through traditional TV advertising has been faltering for several cycles now. The Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012 had vaunted digital strategies, and Donald Trump made his way to the presidency by spending $58.8 million on TV ads, while the Clinton campaign spent $147.1 million

In fairness, that excludes ad spend by PACs/outside organizations. Or, in Trump's case, the power of earned media.

Still, the cord-cutting further erodes the power of traditional TV to reach and turn out critical voters.

Fortunately, political campaigns are generally not afraid of innovation. Strategists don't shy away from seeking new ways to find voters. Senatorial, gubernatorial and even local mayoral campaign strategists look for alternative ways to get their messages out. Digital is no longer an afterthought — it now has a strong seat at the table.

Digital ad spending is projected to hit nearly $2 billion in the midterms — up 2,5359 % from 2014, per Borrell. It also says digital ad spend made up 1% of campaign spend in 2014, but 20% of all political ad spend this year. This is a huge shift in a very short amount of time, considering that traditional TV ads have been the go-to for political advertising for well over 50 years.

Campaigns have kept pace with digital advertising innovation over the past decade, whether that meant employing early social media platforms like Meetup, blogs, or YouTube, precise digital targeting with online ads, or leveraging the very powerful social networks and ad platforms of Facebook and Twitter.

However, a new form of digital advertising is emerging that directly counteracts cord-cutting, combines the narrative power of TV advertising with the targeting power of digital and allows campaigns to rely less on the murkier aspects of social media in brand-safe environments. That form is advanced TV.

Per the IAB, advanced TV encompasses interactive TV, which may appear as digital overlays on top of linear TV commercials, connected TV, over the top (OTT) and smart TVs, as well as linear addressable TV. Ads targeted to specific households are inserted into live programming and video on demand (VOD) addressable, where dynamic ads are inserted into cable programs through the cable provider’s set top box.

Advanced TV provides campaigns with a full-screen captive experience.

In 2018, more than 181 million Americans will use connected TV and almost 200 million will use some type of OTT platform, per eMarketer. That’s more people than voted in the 2016 election.

In addition to this extended digital reach, advanced TV is emerging as one of the key hubs in a multiscreen world, where potential voters are simultaneously watching their connected living room TVs, while also scrolling through their phones and working on a laptop or tablet.

Sophisticated political campaigns in 2018, are using advanced TV as a starting point for cross-device messaging that models voter behavior — dynamic, fluid and hyperconnected.

Advanced TV is still primarily a nascent channel for consumer and brand advertising. Because it offers the targeting power of digital, campaigns should have better success finding persuadable and reliable voters to drive turnout.

In addition, advanced TV environments help ensure that ads are fully viewable and provide a safe harbor for political messages in a time of intense scrutiny on fraudulent, fake, and foreign influences found in other digital media.

This 2018 midterm election is significant for advanced TV political advertising. Just as digital saw its watershed moment in 2012 with President Obama’s unprecedented online ad spend, the 2020 presidential election will likely see a considerable rise in dollars spent on advanced TV, as campaigns seek to reach voters, including cord-cutters, at all possible touchpoints.
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