Today’s column is written by Evan Krauss, vice president of publisher development, Americas, at PubMatic.
Over the past half-century, media has played an increasingly significant role in the country’s presidential elections.
In the 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, for example, Nixon dominated on radio. On TV, however, Kennedy struck a commanding pose next to a sweating Nixon during the first televised presidential debates, which marked a pivotal turn in the election and had a major impact on the outcome.
While advertising has always played a critical role in political elections, it has never been more of a differentiator than in this year’s race. The 2016 election began with a record number of politicians declaring their candidacy, resulting in an oversaturation of messages from candidates trying to share their campaign platforms.
As the election twists and turns toward the two final candidates, the need to connect with voters directly has never been more imperative. To do so successfully, candidates must find a way to resonate with individual voters at a massive scale and use much more targeted, demographic-specific programmatic advertising to attract votes.
Strong data drives the most successful campaigns, but the data must be organized and analyzed so that candidates understand their target audience segments and political affiliations. This would be particularly useful for Donald Trump, who has experienced success in the early primary stages and needs more specific state-level or demographic-level messaging.
Technically, his team would enable this by integrating with third-party data sources to provide necessary demographic, psychographic and location data. As a result, Trump could speak directly to a young mom in traditionally Democratic California about his policies on job creation with the hopes of attracting her vote.
Scaling To Billions – Not Millions – Of Impressions
Though targeting individuals is important for candidates, they also need to reach voters at scale. This would be crucial for someone like John Kasich, a lesser-known candidate who could use programmatic’s scale to reach broad audiences across platforms, which might capture swing voters who aren’t as familiar with his background and policies.
In media buying, direct-sold inventory is sometimes limiting because the Kasich campaign could only access inventory from a single publisher. Programmatic platforms remove that barrier by opening up a buyer’s options to millions of publishers’ impressions across targeted audience segments. This is done through campaign IDs or deal IDs, which allocates campaigns over multiple publishers’ inventory offerings.
Additionally, these messages can be delivered simultaneously across video, mobile, social or wherever a voter might be at any given moment – especially during a highly publicized, live-streamed debate.
Executing Campaigns In Milliseconds, Rather Than Days
Each stage of the presidential campaign is unique. As such, executing campaigns in real time is crucial. The ability to buy and distribute advertising in a matter of milliseconds opens opportunities for candidates to engage voters with the immediacy required for campaigns of this magnitude. Real-time bidding allows candidates can get in front of voters, almost instantaneously, with their point of view on the latest pressing topic.
At this point in the campaign, for instance, Hillary Clinton is slowly solidifying her place as the frontrunner for the Democratic Party, despite a recent string of victories for Bernie Sanders. She has begun pivoting her campaign away from targeting Sanders supporters and toward Trump supporters. She can now focus her messaging on other events, such as the Republican Convention, to gain timely incremental wins that may amount to a slight lead before the primaries come to a close.
Similarly, brand advertisers are adopting the same strategy to become part of the political conversation. At this stage of the election, brands are primarily focused on two things: digital video, specifically through private marketplaces, as a way to amplify their brand messages on a major platform, and reaching consumers in swing states based on certain DMAs. As the election narrows and brands taper their messages to become more personalized, brands will increasingly pivot their budgets toward display and mobile.
This year’s election is shaping up to be an exciting one, and programmatic advertising is an essential platform for the remaining presidential candidates. With the unpredictability of the election and the viral nature of digital content, candidates need to have innovative strategies in place to execute on these opportunities.