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Political Advertising In The Spotlight At Programmatic I/O

October 22nd, 2019   ||    by Alan Wolk

Given the amount of attention the upcoming presidential election is already receiving, and the number of questions I’ve been getting about how easy it would be to hack the election using TV advertising, I was very anxious to hear Mark Jablonowski, Managing Partner & CTO, at DSPolitical give a talk entitled “How To Capture 2020 Political Ad Budget” at AdExchanger’s Programmatic I/O conference last week.

This is a hot topic in TV in general, not just because of privacy and data issues, but because the amount of money that will be spent on both local and national TV in 2020 promises to be groundbreaking. Yes, candidates will spend heavily on digital, but TV is still the most desirable medium.

Targeting Voters

Jablonski explained that most of the data from political campaigns is obtained from the FEC (Federal Election Commission), which records who votes in every election (though not, of course, who they voted for) using their real names and addresses. This allows campaigns to target voters who are likely to show up at the polls.

That data can then be cross-referenced with campaign donation data from the FEC which keeps track of which people and which companies donated money to which candidates, also using real names and addresses.

So, if someone shows up to vote every year, even if it’s just a school board election, and they’ve donated money to Democrats in the past 10 elections, then current Democratic candidates know that’s a good person to target.

Targeting can get even more specific when you add in data from third parties like Experian (the credit card company) or viewing data based on the viewer’s IP address.

The former can be used to understand where to place ads—if, say the likely female voters for Candidate X are buying a lot of running shoes, then Candidate X’s campaign can advertise to them on shows that index well against female runners.

Similarly, by looking at viewing data, campaigns can understand who watched a candidate’s speech or who watched which party’s debates. This can help them identify both likely voters and voters who are politically active.

Joblonski explained the way political campaigns are managed too. Eight weeks prior to the election, campaigns start to run ads to increase awareness and to make sure voters understand the candidate’s platform and to get them excited about the candidate.

Then, two weeks out, they change strategy, so that their ads are all about getting people to actually go to the polls and vote. That’s the key part, because if they can’t mobilize enough voters, they can’t win.

Political advertising differs from brand advertising, Jablonski explained, in that there’s no such thing as missing your goals. “If you don’t hit your goals, then you lose the election and everything you did for the past year or more was for naught.” That’s quite a lot of pressure and it’s why candidates need to get their TV advertising strategy correct.

Another aspect of the political advertising conversation related to this is the trust these voters have in the news they’re seeing. Should political advertisers be pouring more money into national or local? Which is trusted more? A 2017 nationwide survey from Videa asked respondents to share their thoughts and perspectives on how much they trust their local news vs. national news; where they get their local news, and reasons why. Despite numerous options and competition or mindshare, most respondents still prefer and trust local TV.

 

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