Targeting Political Ads

04 February 2014 | Blog

Back in 2012, the big news in TV advertising was the Obama campaign’s use of targeted TV ad buys. His team avoided the tradition of simply buying local news for their ad campaigns, and instead went after specific audiences, such as “Miami-dad women under 35”. They reported they “were able to buy 14% more efficiently”…and we all know how that turned out.

Now Dish and DirecTV have formed a partnership to sell addressable TV ads for political campaigns. It’s prompting a flood of musings on political advertising, such as MediaPost’s “The Addressable Election”. Peter Pasi enumerates some of the challenges facing political advertisers these days: “In many cases, less than 30% of a given TV audience purchased by campaigns reflected the intended target audience…At the same time, phone and mail programs have also started to become less effective.” It’s clear a major sea change is on the way.

Targeted TV advertising offers a couple new tools for the political advertiser’s toolbox. The most exciting change is the growing switch from unit-based to impressions-based advertising. As advertisers are increasingly able to reach specific audiences, they are gaining the ability to pinpoint precisely the impressions they need, extending their reach beyond what was possible only a few election cycles ago.

But stopping there misses some of the opportunity targeted TV advertising presents. In any given election, there will be certain groups of voters available to be swayed. But the specific message that will sway them varies as well. A laid-off worker may respond well to an attack ad about an opponent’s record on job creation; parents of school-age children may be more interested in what a candidate can promise about education. It’s possible to create multiple ads using a single template and deliver them all to the appropriate audiences within a single buy.

America is starting to gear up for the midterm elections. It’s increasingly clear that the candidates who embrace the leading edge of technology will have an edge of their own at the polls.