In today’s campaign world, tools and tactics are advancing quicker than ever. Digital is now an essential part of campaigning, and an essential part of any campaign’s advertising budget.
But for the upcoming election cycle, say consultants, the name of the game is reinforcement—finding ways to get your message in front of voters and then make sure it stays top of mind. We’ve highlighted four tactics that should be a part of your strategy discussions in 2014.
1. Set-Top Box Data Mining
While there’s plenty of potential for political campaigns in set-top box targeting, mining data from television set-top boxes and pairing it to the voter file is a good starting point this cycle, according to NCC Media’s Tim Kay.
“It’s no longer hoping you’re hitting the person,” says Kay, the company’s political director. “Now it’s about knowing whether you’re hitting the person and knowing how to hit the person.”
After watching what President Obama’s 2012 reelection effort was able to do in terms of television targeting, Kay says it would be foolish for campaigns to think they can target voters effectively only through news-related programming. Slicing and dicing lifestyle and sports programming to ensure you’re reaching the right audience is now the norm. Viewers consume hundreds of different channels, and the fragmentation is only getting worse.
Through data pulled from set-top boxes, a campaign can get a sense of what their targeted area is consuming, and then figure out how to best reach the voters in those target zones. This type of data mining, says Kay, can be scaled to fit just about any size campaign—you don’t need a presidential budget to do it.
Targeting directed toward specific set-top boxes is only usable in some metropolitan areas at the moment, but the technology is expected to have a more nationwide reach within the next couple of election cycles.
2. Cookie-Targeted Online Advertising
This is a tactic we’ve heard about plenty over the past year, and digital consultants anticipate that it will go completely mainstream in the 2014 cycle. Like TV set-top box targeting, cookie-targeted online advertising allows for the sort of one-to-one targeting that campaigns covet.
According to Jordan Lieberman, president of CampaignGrid, the key this cycle is addressability. Due to lower turnout, Lieberman says successful campaigns will keep it local, social and mobile. Local ensures you’re reaching voters where they are, and mobile combines the addressability of local and social outreach.
In addition to assisting in the placement of online advertising, cookie targeting also offers data a campaign can add to the voter file. And the targeting cost doesn’t necessarily change whether a campaign is up or down the ballot, says Lieberman.
Still, it doesn’t make sense for every campaign to spend money on cookie-targeted advertising.
“If the area is less than 10,000 people, consider investing in sneakers and start knocking on doors,” Lieberman says.
Yet cookie targeting, like other methods of modern advertising, is not an either-or scenario. It’s part of the reinforcement of the message that’s essential for successful political advertising. Lieberman thinks set-top box addressability, or specifically targeting segments by cable box, will eventually take off, but it will take a few cycles to get there.
3. Facebook Custom Audiences
2013 was the first year that Americans spent more time online than they did in front of a television, according to a study from eMarketer. So where exactly are they consuming? Facebook is one answer. Facebook’s Jamie Ruth says campaigns should be using the social network to reinforce and extend their reach in a more targeted way, and not just using Facebook to develop a social media presence.
“Campaigns up and down the ballot are using Custom Audiences, Lookalike Audiences, and conversion-optimized bidding to raise money at scale like never before,” Ruth says. “They’re taking advantage of Facebook’s deep mobile penetration and cross-device targeting, including voter-file targeting through Managed Custom Audiences, to persuade and turn out key voters.”
Custom audiences allow a campaign to upload, match and eventually solicit their existing email list on Facebook. On the superficial level, this can help increase “likes” on their page, but it can also bring in money and help campaigns reach specific audiences with online messaging tailored specifically to them.
“As email open rates slip and email-filtering technology develops, campaigns are turning to Facebook Custom Audiences to reinforce their email marketing messages in supporters’ News Feeds,” Ruth says. “As it becomes harder to reach voters through TV, media buyers are increasingly using Page Post Photo and Video ads to reinforce messaging and extend the reach of their TV spots across desktop and mobile devices.”
Last year, Facebook introduced Managed Custom Audiences, which allow campaigns to target their voter file universes on both desktop and mobile devices—merging the standard online and mobile advertising worlds. Lookalike Custom Audiences allow a campaign to take its list of supporters from its custom audiences to find voters with Facebook profiles similar to the campaign’s existing supporters.
“These tools have completely transformed down ballot campaigns’ ability to acquire low cost email acquisitions and donations, even if they can’t hire a dedicated digital ads staffer or agency,” Ruth says.
4. Twitter’s Tailored Audiences
Although not as campaign-oriented as other offerings, Twitter’s latest in advertising is a broad way to reach voters in 140 characters. Twitter has yet to see extensive use as a political advertising venue, yet with products like Twitter plus TV, along with keyword and geo-targeting, Twitter has now fully entered the political advertising game.
“In 2012, Twitter was the real-time spin room for politics and drove the narrative with reporters,” says Peter Greenberger, director of global political sales for Twitter. “Our new direct response capabilities, and the power of Twitter plus TV, will make Twitter a core component of list building, fundraising, persuasion, and mobilization for political campaigns in 2014.”
In December, Twitter unveiled its Tailored Audiences feature, which allows advertisers to connect with users who have already shown interest in their brand. This feature is broadly made for businesses, but is applicable to campaigns as well.
Like Facebook’s Custom Audiences, a campaign can upload a list of its supporters, and link them with existing Twitter IDs. This allows Twitter users to be targeted with a specific promoted tweet, or a promoted user, that’s relevant to them.
Jake Williams is a contributor to Campaigns & Elections magazine.