Why Broad Targeting Could Be Ticket To White House

Since the 2016 presidential election, the political advertising conversation has largely focused on the advantages and effectiveness of digital microtargeting.  Candidates have built campaign strategies around the ability to reach specific segments of the population based on demographics, interests and behavior.

However, as we head toward the 2020 election with the most divided electorate in recent history, a return to broader targeting with inclusive messaging could prove a more effective way for candidates to drive enthusiastic support, gain credibility and unite voters to secure victory in November.

Unifying ideas are more impactful than a fractured approach

The ability to microtarget has led candidates to tailor communication to specific factions of their base, fracturing their campaign messaging in an attempt to tell each subset of voters what they want to hear.  Candidates have focused on the individual issues valued by each group rather than on finding a shared, ideas-based message to unify them.  This has resulted in a noticeable absence of the type of bold, underlying campaign ideology that generates excitement and enthusiasm.



For the coming election, candidates should embrace a broad targeting strategy that forces them to distill their campaign’s messaging into a core idea or value that resonates with multiple factions of their party, building a coalition and driving strong turnout.

Broad targeting builds national awareness
Most Democratic candidates have been leveraging microtargeting to home in on demographic groups that reflect their existing base.  Biden’s spend on Facebook, for instance, has skewed heavily toward an older audience, while Sanders has targeted a much younger age bracket — both aligning with their supporters, according to The New York Times.  While this is an efficient way for candidates to acquire donors, it keeps their messaging siloed and does nothing to broaden their base.

Many candidates also become overly fixated on winning over specific segments of the electorate perceived as strategically valuable. This approach can lead to candidates alienating their broader constituency and neglecting potentially crucial groups of voters overlooked by the political establishment.

A broader targeting strategy could help campaigns avoid these pitfalls, and instead prioritize widespread messaging of unifying beliefs and values.  This large-scale outreach gives candidates a better chance of being at the center of the national conversation, driving earned media and building momentum.

Campaigns shouldn’t discount traditional channels

Microtargeting has led to a heavy reliance on digital platforms like Facebook and Google, but campaigns will need to leverage a more balanced media mix to secure victory.

Candidates would be well served by placing more emphasis on channels like TV and print, which many see as being more credible, according to The Wall Street Journal.  This approach would also demonstrate a desire to reach an audience outside of the echo chambers of social media. Unlike targeted digital buys, traditional channels reflect a willingness to put content in the public eye, representing a return to a more unified public consciousness and the inherent accountability it demands.

Bottom line

A departure from the popular microtargeting approach to political advertising could be the key to success in this year’s presidential election. In today’s political climate, a strategy that seeks to unite the electorate has a far greater chance of success than one that further divides it.

2 comments about "Why Broad Targeting Could Be Ticket To White House".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 11, 2020 at 10:55 a.m.

    Very good points, Alison, especially as upwards of 50-60% of the voters in many elections are not hard core supporers of either candidate but are somewhere in the middle and not so predictable regarding their support for many proposed solutions or causes.

  2. Peter Rosenwald from Consult Partners, March 11, 2020 at 12:04 p.m.

    Thoughtful piece Alison.

    As a data-driven marketer, my discipline should certainly be 'micro' rather than 'macro' but as in all such things, exceptions underline the rule.

    Micro targeting has its strong values but has some serious negatives as well. A broad approach may be just what the candidates will need to expand their bases.

    Charles Saatchi got conservative Margaret Thatcher elected PM and the party into power in the UK with this simple ad: "Labour Isn't Working", a three-word pun focussing on unemployment under the Labour government and the fact that Labour wasn't 'working' for the electorate. It was broad but all-inclusive. And it worked!

    Food for thought.  

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