Why Are Campaigns Wasting Precious Budget On Already Decided Voters?

josephlavanAdExchanger Politics” is a weekly column tracking developments in the 2016 political campaign cycle.

Today’s column is written by Joseph Lavan, vice president of data and insights at Netmining.

Walking into a store knowing what you want to buy and then having a sales rep pitch you on the exact product you’ve already decided on can be one of the most infuriating parts of the shopping experience.

Why keep selling what is already sold? As a consumer, this is nothing but annoying, and as a business it’s an inefficient use of the workforce.

It’s indisputable that political advertising differs from consumer advertising in that political focuses on voters making a single decision about who they are going to vote for. Still, there’s no reason why the concepts behind good political advertising have to be wildly different than traditional B2C advertising.

It doesn’t make the most sense to continue advertising to a voter after they’ve already made a decision about which candidate they’ll choose on Election Day. While inefficient government spending seems as inevitable as death and taxes, it is still shocking how much budget is wasted marketing to voters who have already demonstrated an affinity one way or another.

The RNC and DNC have access to lots of data, and it’s easier than ever to bring that data online using LiveRamp, Adobe and other onboarders. But the one thing campaigns aren’t doing enough is using that data, including CRM files, for basic tactics like campaign suppression. With digital spending set to eclipse $1 billion for this election cycle, it’s important to question whether campaigns are truly spending their money wisely or if they are, in classic fashion, throwing money at the problem and checking the proverbial box on digital advertising.

Consumer-based online marketing is moving heavily toward addressable media, with some of the biggest global brands, such as Unilever and L’Oreal, using as much of their own data as possible to reach new customers and grow their existing relationships.

While political advertisers don’t necessarily have “customers,” per se, they do have lots of voter data that they can use, as well as access to the same anonymous online behavioral data that other marketers leverage. Campaigns have access to party enrollment information, voter turnout records, donor lists and sometimes email addresses for voters who have signed up for more information from a campaign.

The trouble is that political advertisers don’t use this valuable asset. Many campaigns this year seem to be leaving the data sitting there, instead choosing to build their campaign around third-party data that’s readily available to all advertisers.

There are benefits to third-party data, of course. It makes sense for congressional candidates to limit their targeting to voters within their districts, so geotargeting comes in handy. Online behaviors can also reveal an affinity toward a party, or at least a political affiliation, such as liberal or conservative. All helpful tools, but not the kind of data asset that is going to deliver the optimal outcome, which is a victory on election night. That’s because these data sources still lead campaigns to cast a wide net, resulting in inefficient spending.

By using the CRM file they already own, campaigns can divert their spending away from voters who are already on their side, as well as voters who have firmly sided with the opposition. Essentially, they would create the equivalent of an online do-not-call list, blocking out decided voters in both parties and only targeting their ad messages to voters who haven’t yet registered a party or candidate affinity. In short, the majority of the spend goes to the elusive undecided voter, minimizing wasted budget spent on voters who are unlikely to change their mind.

And as important as it is to appeal to a voter base, “waste” is the correct term here. The goal of a campaign is to get voters to pick a side. Once those voters have decided, there is little benefit in continuing to serve them ads – the mission is already accomplished. In 2016, minimizing this waste will be crucial, not only in the presidential election, but in senatorial, congressional and local elections.

It’s still early in the election year, but many voters have already picked their sides. If you don’t believe me, check your Facebook feed. Smarter spending through greater use of data could be the deciding factor between victory and defeat come November. The candidates and campaigns that choose to tap into their valuable CRM assets will likely be the ones standing triumphantly when all the votes are counted.

Follow Netmining (@Netmining) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. Alex Wald

    Interesting read. What about voters who are decided, but need an extra boost to convince them it’s worth their time to get up early on election day and make it to the polls? Campaigners need their constituents to both 1) be persuaded the candidate is the best option but 2) that it is worth their time to vote for the candidate. In an election as polarized in the 2016 election it may be worth it to continually engage known supporters so that they do not shirk their election day, especially with CRM messages which are relatively dirt cheap.