Lessons Brands Can Learn from Political Advertisers

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Jordan Lieberman, vice president at a4. 

The most progressive area of the digital advertising industry can be found on the campaign trail – both nationally and locally – where political campaigns have figured out how to ensure data-informed advertising delivers a real return.

In this heated political climate there is a Darwinian race to innovate better, faster and more efficient targeting and media delivery than the other side.

This is what political advertisers do best, and there are lessons to be learned by their brethren focused on the commercial and brand side of advertising.

Targeting and reach matter

Political advertisers obsess about waste in advertising, which may not be something that can be said for all buying and selling leaders on the commercial side. You can maximize reach or have impeccable targeting but it takes strategy and nuance to achieve both. On average, campaigns may target about 5% of any given political jurisdiction of several hundred thousand people or fewer. They typically have almost no interest in national targeting, and even statewide targeting is less common than most would expect.

Lookalike targeting doesn’t work because likely voters pretty much look like unlikely voters. In the commercial space, precision too often takes a back seat to a creative unit with some sizzle. Said another way, campaigns don’t care much for interactive banners, video overlays or 60-second creative if it’s going to diminish precision in any way. If an ad unit hurts reach, forget it.

You get what you pay for with data

In the political space, there may be nearly 100 sources for voter data in a well-known demand-side platform (DSP), but 75% of them are junk. Choose wisely. It’s shocking when clients will invest tens of thousands of dollars in creative, only to cut corners with low quality voter data.

Commercial advertisers usually don’t press hard enough on data sourcing; it will save a few dollars, but the disappointing results hurt us all as an industry. Having the best data and knowing how to use it makes the difference. Don’t settle for less.

There’s a difference between ISP-authenticated IP targeting and IP targeting

There are two systems for IP targeting in the marketplace. One uses privacy-compliant IP data provided by internet service providers (ISPs) and is precise at the household level. The other process uses publicly-available IP data that is sold by IP targeting shops, and it doesn’t pass the smell test.

Political advertisers are obsessed with targeting precision so they’ve mostly eliminated IP targeters who don’t use data provided by the ISPs. Only ISP-authenticated IP targeting can deliver the right ads to the right people. Plain IP targeting cannot.

These lessons can help commercial advertisers if they want to remain competitive and reach the right audience. Not looking to the future of advertising with friendly advice from their colleagues could make the difference between winning and losing – literally.

Follow Jordan Lieberman (@Jslieberman) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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