Author: Keith Norman, Head of Political Advertising
The stakes are higher than ever for political campaigns. With each passing election cycle, every vote counts even more as races are decided by increasingly thinner margins. With several statewide, municipal and down-ballot elections over the coming weeks — and the 2022 midterms already upon us — political marketers must up the ante — and streaming TV has become an essential channel to win over voters. Connected TV (CTV) political ad spending is expected to reach $1.5 billion in 2022 out of a total of $9 billion anticipated in the overall political sphere, according to AdImpact and Cross Screen Media projections.
With the explosive growth in streaming TV audiences, CTV has risen in its prominence and share of the political marketing mix as smart political marketers are riding the streaming wave. Given the material number of streaming voters in 2020, CTV proved to be an invaluable medium for political strategists and buyers as they’ve learned that they can’t run an effective campaign without reaching streamers. This year, 83 percent of U.S. households are projected to be CTV households and the average time spent per day streaming on a connected device will be about 50 percent compared to the average time spent watching television, according to eMarketer.
New consumer data policies are further impacting political advertising strategies. Twitter and Spotify have banned political advertising, and with the recent IDFA privacy changes, we can expect more mobile advertising dollars to shift to CTV. CTV is a highly affordable and effective way for digital-first marketers to enter TV advertising and be able to target and measure in the same way as other digital channels — and for TV-first marketers to leverage the powerful combination of CTV and linear to extend their reach.
But the proliferation of streaming TV services and platforms brings increased complexity and fragmentation for political media buyers to navigate. Thus, they need an understanding of the varying capabilities of providers — to know what they are buying and where their ads are running — along with transparent and detailed reporting for outcomes-based campaign performance.
Here are three considerations for CTV political advertising success:
Prioritize premium inventory: As political advertisers embrace streaming TV, demand for premium CTV inventory is skyrocketing. The ability to guarantee that the inventory bought will be delivered with preferred inventory placement can still differ depending on the provider. Thus, political campaigns must plan and secure inventory early. For instance, to achieve the necessary scale and reach, political advertisers may resort to making disparate buys with many publishers. Instead, opting to work with a trusted premium aggregator that has curated many direct connections to premium inventory not only simplifies media buying but ensures political campaigns achieve the advantages of reach and scale.
Access rich CTV audience targeting capabilities: Political marketers will need to be mindful of changing demographics based on findings from the 2020 Census data and the vast migration that occurred during the pandemic with the advent of remote work. The ability to use first-party or third-party data in CTV provides political advertisers with greater precision targeting capabilities. For instance, the use of first-party data, such as voter files, donor and supporter lists, and third-party data provides political advertisers with a powerful combination of data-rich digital targeting in a linear TV experience. Not only can political advertisers leverage richer datasets to target voters by district, political affiliation, income, education level, and other interests, they can deliver tailored messages to voters aligned with their beliefs, behaviors, and values on CTV campaigns.
The imperative for brand safety and ad fraud protection: With misinformation continuing to run rampant on social media platforms, brand safety remains a top priority for political advertisers — where so often the “medium is the message.” In streaming TV, brand safety risks are greater when political media buyers purchase CTV inventory on open exchanges as there is little control over where ads may run — making brand safety, transparency, and algorithmic control concerns top of mind. Furthermore, with the emergence of ad fraud in the OTT ecosystem, understanding the inventory supply source is critical. In fact, a Pixalate report found that 24 percent of programmatic OTT/CTV is invalid traffic in Q4 2020. Thus, political advertisers should look for the TAG Certified Against Fraud Seal of approval to ensure that they’re choosing trusted providers that are committed to vigilance in ad fraud protection. Working with partners that focus on directly sourced premium quality content is even more important to protect political campaigns from reputational risks.
Getting the right message out in the right medium to sway even a few undecided voters can literally make or break a campaign. As we look to 2022, political campaigns are going “all in” with CTV to embrace the powerful combination of data-rich digital targeting in a big screen TV experience to deliver more personalized messages to reach this high-value streaming TV audience. Investing in trusted partners who can reach engaged voters with tailored campaigns in premium content will be crucial for delivering winning campaigns.