By: Andrew Ransom
As politics moves from TV and direct mail to targeted online messages, campaigns are struggling to find effective and competent partners to help them reach voters in the digital space. Because of the scarcity of tested digital advertising providers, many campaigns are still missing out on opportunities to utilize some of the industry’s most effective digital tools. Among these tools, real-time bidding (RTB) stands out.
What do campaigns need from digital tools?
The ultimate strategy of any political campaign is, of course, to win votes. To win votes, a campaign needs to reach three essential benchmarks with any voter: they need to know the candidate or issue, they need to like you or agree with your position, and they need to actually cast a vote in your name or for your measure. These three benchmarks should be mirrored in three separate strategies for a digital campaign; focusing on name recognition, issue advocacy, and getting out the vote.
Can RTB help guide these strategies?
Real-time bidding is a way to purchase advertising inventory on a per-impression basis via an instantaneous auction. Using tools like DSPs, advertisers can bid on impressions based on user data, site data, and other technologies to ensure the user seeing the impression is exactly who they want. It is a vital tool for digital marketing in the private sector, and has all the capabilities to assist political campaigns in all three areas of their digital operation.
While political campaigns still rely heavily on TV and Direct Mail buys, RTB has been successfully deployed by a number of high-profile campaigns; usually well-funded statewide or national races. But within those races, both parties have spent tens of millions on programmatic advertising. It’s because they understand that TV and Direct Mail simply cannot provide the level of targeting or reporting campaigns can find in the digital space. And within RTB, those options are compounded.
Campaigns can use RTB to target users in almost every way imaginable; down the the type of operating system a user is utilizing on their device. And while these options are the cornerstone for producing incredible results, they are complicated to navigate; steering many campaigns clear of the space in recent years. This has left a huge opportunity for experienced agencies to help campaigns develop winning strategies in the RTB space, and a big advantage for campaigns willing to break through the barrier.
How can RTB help my candidate’s name ID, issue advocacy, and GOTV efforts?
One of the biggest issues for candidates has been raising their name ID in the early days of a campaign. In the past this problem has been solved with expensive TV buys blanketing districts with a one-size fits all message, or direct mail bombs filling mailboxes with palm-cards that are quickly discarded. But by building a tailored digital strategy utilizing a few tools that are unique to RTB, campaigns could instantly become more targeted and cost effective with their message.
Using audience segments from leading political data providers, and geographic overlays, campaigns can deliver tailored pre-roll messages to voters based on issues the campaign is focused on. And adding in viewability requirements, and premium sitelist targets, campaigns can ensure their messages are highly visible to their base. Using a budget similar to a TV or Direct Mail buy, campaigns can plan to reach their targeted users at a significantly higher frequency. This is vital to driving messaging and increasing candidate or issue ID in the early days of any campaign.
This strategy is also incredibly useful in the second leg of campaigns, issue advocacy. As election day approaches, campaigns kick their issue focuses into high gear. For many campaigns it’s also when money gets tight, and making every dollar count makes all the difference. This is a perfect time to utilize digital opportunities like RTB. Using a similar strategy as they did in the name ID leg of the campaign, campaigns can deliver multiple segmented messages to the right audiences in a dramatically more effective way than TV or direct mail. This is also when RTB’s measurement capabilities play a huge role. As users click through to issue microsites, and sign pledges, RTB can deliver vital insights to campaigns on where they stand with voters on each issue.
In the final weeks of a campaign, messaging focus shifts from advocacy to getting out the vote. Campaigns need to ensure that the voters they’ve won actually make it to the polls. Fortunately RTB can help, this time with a display ad strategy. By retargeting pledge signers, donors, and other aligned voters with highly viewable display ads, campaigns can deliver vital information on voting. From early voting and absentee ballots, to finding polling places. Campaigns can utilize RTB to ensure their voters make it to the polls. Where TV falls short in broad targeting, and direct mail can’t capture audience attention, RTB provides a completely unique opportunity for campaigns to urge their voters to cast their votes.
How can I find the right partner to help my campaign?
A comprehensive RTB strategy can be complicated even for seasoned advertising professionals, and completely overwhelming for campaigns focused on so many moving pieces. That’s why it is vital for campaigns to select the right partner to run their RTB operations.
Many agencies offering these services in the political space are traditional media firms or communications consultants. While they have great connections with campaign professionals, their relationships in the advertising space can be limited. This results in many of these partners using sub-par or black-box tools that don’t offer what campaigns really need. Or, they whitelist their services with another digital advertising firm, resulting in higher fees and ultimately fewer impressions served to the campaign’s targeted voters.
However, many traditional advertising agencies can provide exactly what campaigns need. They have long relationships in the industry, which helps to ensure they have tools that can provide options to campaigns. They have access to more data, allowing campaigns to segment their messages and make the most of their money. And on top of that, many traditional agencies employ former political operatives who will understand what a campaign needs, and be able to deliver optimal results.
But is RTB right for my campaign?
Almost any campaign can utilize RTB effectively in their strategy. Real-time bidding offers incredible advantages over traditional approaches like TV and Direct Mail. A campaign that can afford these operations can easily succeed in the RTB space. In fact, they can expect better targeting, measurement, and results if they move budget into the digital space.
More than any of the traditional campaign messaging approaches, RTB provides an extremely cost-effective and valuable option to campaigns that are focused on reaching voters and winning elections. If your campaign wants to make the most of your media budget, reach out and explore digital options like RTB. It could make all the difference.