How Will Political Campaigns Reach Voters Who Are Avoiding Ads?

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

Today’s column is written by Paula Minardi, broadcast industry marketing manager at Ooyala.

Ad avoidance in the 2016 election cycle is a key challenge for political campaigns. The results will be influenced by whether target constituencies even see campaign ads, particularly video ads in digital and mobile environments.

More voting audiences, especially millennials, are blocking ads, skipping them or simply opting for ad-free content experiences – just because they can. Whether trying to raise funds, gain awareness or motivate supporters to get out the vote, candidates will be affected.

There are now around 45 million monthly active ad-blocking users in the US – and growing. Ad-blocking rates vary by region, ranging from around 8% of ads in Washington, DC, to more than 16% in Oregon. Some traditional swing states hover near the top end of the range, with Nevada and New Hampshire topping 14%, while Florida is just under 13%. Since US ad-blocking rates have grown nearly 50% in the last year alone, those numbers will likely climb even higher in 2016 as more voters become familiar with ad-blocking software, especially on mobile devices.

Ad skipping is also an issue. Skippable digital ads and ad-skipping DVRs, which really ignited the ad avoidance movement, aren’t helping campaigns. Nor are ad-free digital video subscription offerings, which have molded viewing habits of the youngest voters as they’ve come of age.

There are, however, still ways for campaigns to reach voters despite an environment that increasingly makes it easy to avoid ads. For starters, before making media buys, campaigns should ask digital content providers how they handle anti-ad blocking. For example, do they passively ask audiences to refrain from blocking their ads, do they aggressively withhold content if ads are blocked or do they employ a tech solution to maintain a constant defense against ad blockers? And if a tech solution is in place, is a server-side or client-side approach used? Each can have different results.

Ad-blocking rates can also vary considerably by site vertical, so campaigns must understand how particular environments may impact their buy. For mobile ads, they should consider ads on native mobile apps versus mobile web browsers because ad blockers are not yet as effective in a native app environment.

Campaigns should also prioritize premium video inventory within strong digital environments that support great content and ad experience for viewers and a candidate’s brand. This will help reduce the risk of viewers dropping off before an ad starts or not completing ads due to issues with video ad stream quality. It will also decrease the chances of paying for fraudulent impressions and ads with low viewability. For example, studies have pointed to generally higher viewability grades among major media and broadcast sites, which typically feature premium video content and avails.

Campaigns should select ad creatives that are more personalized to their target audiences as well. Targeted ads are less likely to induce methods of avoidance. They can increase brand favorability and intent to purchase, according to eMarketer, which may translate to political candidate brands as well. Also, it’s important to tailor ads to specific screen types, such as choosing vertical formats for mobile platforms and implementing alternate creative and video ad formats that are more compelling, less intrusive and fast-loading.

Along with this, campaigns should explore programmatic and other precise viewer targeting opportunities. This may also include dynamic ad insertion (DAI), which enables specific ads to be placed in the video stream. Ask content providers if they offer DAI in live content broadcast across screens, such as news or debates, or only in video-on-demand content. Targeting technologies will continue to advance along with digital video in 2016, enabling campaigns to get closer to their potential voters with more timely and relevant ads.

Campaigns that can embrace a new way of thinking about ads in 2016 will be better positioned for campaign success and reaching ad-avoidant audiences. Then they can focus on turning them into supporters, donors and voters.

Follow Ooyala (@ooyala) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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