Want to target with precision? Online advertising isn’t the only way to do it. Another highly targetable advertising channel campaigns should look at is cable TV. Like online advertising, cable ads can usually be targeted geographically and by interest. Many cable providers now offer congressional district targeting, and many also have good demographic data on their subscribers.

Plus, cable channels are inherently interest-segmented: the Military Channel’s audience is different than that of a Lifetime movie of the week, allowing advertisers to put specific messages in front of people actually likely to respond to them.

Another reason Super PACs and other outside groups might turn to cable ads is cost. Independent groups are being forced to pay more for broadcast channel ads, since the law restricts the amounts stations can charge campaigns.

No such limits exist for issue groups, which will no doubt pay through the nose for ads on the evening news in Ohio. Targeted cable ads can be a much more efficient way to spend money, particularly if you’re looking beyond CNN, Fox and MSNBC. Geotargeting + interest-targeting = efficiency.

For some consultants, local radio has been a secret weapon for years, but Pandora Internet radio offers, you guessed it, additional targeting—including location-based targeting. As of mid-August, the Romney campaign had spent a noticeable amount of money on Pandora, including both audio ads and text-style appeals via the Pandora mobile app. How many other campaigns will follow his lead? Pandora hopes the answer will be “plenty.”

No matter what medium you choose between now and Election Day, this should be your mantra: target and test, test and target, target and test. Don’t just run generic ads and hope for the best, unless of course you’re someone I don’t want to win. In that case, feel free spend with wild abandon and no strategy. See you in November.

As Predicted, Online Inventory Getting Short

You read about it months ago in CampaignTech Uncut: online ad inventory in battleground states was bound to start getting tight before November. ClickZ’s Kate Kaye also reported in June that campaigns might not be able to buy as much as a third or half of the pre-roll video they wanted in certain states. In early August, Politico noted that aggressive spending by both campaigns and outside groups had soaked up so much pre-roll video ad space that it was running out in states seen as crucial in 2012.

As we noted in CampaignTech Uncut, it makes sense that pre-roll video (which runs before content on sites like Hulu and YouTube) would be the first to go, since it’s the digital ad form most similar to TV advertising. As of mid-August, the ad drought hadn’t yet spread to banner ads (including in-banner video ads). Kate Kaye also noted that Google’s content ad space was still in good supply, YouTube excluded.

As Election Day approaches, the question is whether ad networks will be able to provide enough supply to meet the demands of campaigns and independent groups. Watch for more campaigns to try alternatives to premium-priced video ads, perhaps in the process learning a thing or two about the ability of banners and rich media ads to engage voters and recruit supporters. Or party committees and outside groups may try to spread their money beyond the conventional battlegrounds, putting states (or districts) in play that weren’t on the radar of most analysts.

As of this writing, I’ve heard hints that Republican-aligned independent expenditure groups have already started to spread their spending down ballot more than originally planned.

That’s a trend I suspect will accelerate if Romney-Ryan turns out to be a weak ticket. If the prediction is true, look for Republican outside groups and their Democratic opponents to spend much of that money online.

Colin Delany is founder and editor of the award-winning Epolitics.com and a 15-year veteran of online politics. A contributor to Campaigns & Elections, Delany writes C&E's Technology Bytes section.

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