Political campaigns will spend $14.38 billion on media in 2024, said MediaPost’s VP Editorial Director, Steve Smith, at MediaPost’s annual Marketing Politics conference in Washington DC last Thursday. Klever Programmatic was proud to sponsor this is a one-of-a-kind event that brings together political figures, associations, marketing teams and agencies.
The presentation discussions ranged from frequency capping to influencer marketing, Tik Tok, top media platforms, and everything in between. Did you know streaming video is up 8,550% since the last mid-term election in 2018?!
With more and more voters spending time online, digital platforms have become important campaigning tools, but not every candidate is wielding these to their advantage. Combine techniques with legislative changes, alongside hot-button election issues, and there is no shortage of political marketing topics to discuss. If you weren’t able to attend, don’t fret because we’ve summarized the top three takeaways from the 2023 MediaPost Marketing Politics event below.
Big Takeaway # 1: Be Online Earlier
Reshuffling the Data Deck: Campaigning After Digital Depreciation
Moderator: Steve Smith, VP, Editorial Director, Events, MediaPost
Panelist: Amanda Ach, Digital Director, Senate Majority PAC
Panelist: Michael Eisenstatt, National Digital Director for Campaigns, DCCC
Panelist: Lyman Munschauer, Former Chief Marketing Officer, NRCC
At least one third of a candidates voting audience is online, which is a gap big enough to win or lose an election (George Logan lost by only 2500 votes to Democrat Jahana Hayes in November!), and so digital has become an essential part of a political marketers toolbox. Looking at the political marketing landscape, Democrats are doing a better job at spending on digital channels, and this is likely because their demographic is younger and spends more time online.
For those advertisers who are online, they may be waiting too long. Some candidates aren’t spending on digital until their last five weeks, which is too late. Candidates need to define themselves online before their opponents can define them. It’s not enough to put it on a news broadcast 18 months before an election – candidates have to put that message in peoples minds constantly leading up to the vote. Digital is also cheaper early on.
Advertising is changing and political marketers have to keep up. Where some platforms have taken away specific targeting capabilities, advertisers are able to overindex using zip codes (etc.) to reach these audiences. Now instead of being focused on one-to-one, marketers can get a ten-to-one, which is great because while you may be trying to target “Joe,” you’ll also have the benefit of hitting “John, Sue, and Sally.” Targeting changes have had bigger impacts on the campaign fundraising side. That said, during the latest election cycle there were so many hot button issues like the Roe decision that it made sense to broadcast messages on consumer media because these topics affect so many people.
Heavier issues can also influence creative and shotty creative also has the potential to affect a candidate’s credibility. Advertisers may want to be more black and white and less creative on topics like abortion. Creative also has to take into account digital behaviour which is shifting.
Facebook was much more important in previous election cycles than it was in the most recent one. YouTube and CTV have taken over. Programmatic is getting better outcomes than Facebook now. Match rates on programmatic media buying were 60-80% and sometimes higher (our team at Klever Programmatic typically sees match rates of 85% or higher).
Each stream of advertising needs its own content – advertisers shouldn’t just crop their 30-second format to make it fit. Shorter and more digestible content is on trend. Viewers have minutes of TV commercials traditionally, whereas on YouTube it’s 6 to 15 second ad experiences that are much shorter and often skippable, so there’s more engagement. That said, these short ad formats make it difficult to convey more complex messages. Similarly, for new candidates these short ads may not offer as much exposure as someone with brand recognition. For straightforward issues though it can be easier to send a strong message in six seconds.
Format isn’t always about length, it’s also about screen size and context. Both large and small screen formats have value for advertisers. Smaller offers a more personalized and engaging experience potentially, while larger is easier to view for longer. The actual program being viewed plays a role as well – consider a live sports game versus regular news programming.
Even though audiences can be sensitive to overly-repetitive messages, and frequency capping is a consideration, political advertisers are ultimately asking themselves how many times an ad needs to be seen before it sinks in and so repetition becomes very important. Political advertisers are very comfortable with their messaging frequency from that point of view, but of course they are also in the hands of the larger news cycle.
Big Takeaway #2 CTV Has to Be Part of One Unified Media Budget for Best Results
We Want Our CTV!: Reassembling Fragmented TV
Moderator: Justin Lamorte, Campaign Manager, Michael Bennet Campaign
Panelist: Amanda Elliott, Digital Director, Republican Governors Association
Panelist: Philip Mitchell, Director of Media, Poolhouse
Panelist: Erica Monteith, Managing Director, Senior Vice President, GMMB
Panelist: Bill Redding, Senior Vice President, Digital & Targeting Director, The New Media Firm
Advertisers shouldn’t just check a box. They need to look at media consumption patterns and go where voters are – YouTube, Hulu, Roku…and so on. QR codes or Smart TVs also allow advertisers to be more interactive with their digital audience, but also each platform has different data regulations and procedures that adds complexity to the operational component. Some have fluctuating policies about accepting political ad content.
COVID has accelerated the shift to streaming; however, inventory has been a challenge for CTV. With highly segmented audiences, finding vendors for political ads can be difficult. YouTube doesn’t like voter data, and others won’t show ads about particular topics like guns and abortion for example. Many streaming platforms say they either don’t want to deal with the backlash of showing polarizing content or they find the content of the ads typically just too negative for their audience. Even parents don’t want to watch six gun-related ads ahead of their Disney Plus viewing experience. Political advertisers are mixing it up now by expanding partnerships, expanding YouTube buys, bringing in cable companies, and getting into platforms like Hulu where they’re allowed. Political advertisers should stop and think about their messaging strategy and overall how their campaigns make people feel where ads are shown and how frequently. When CTV first started you’d get 10 ads in a row from the same advertiser.
CTV now a key component of every media plan. To have a truly encompassed program you have to have both in one media plan. CTV, OTT and traditional TV need to be talked about in the same room, blurring that line between digital and linear. Digital is more affordable than linear TV in many ways, and you can do more with it than you can with traditional TV. Advertisers are looking for premium force-view inventory and TV can get expensive sometimes, but if there is one central budget advertisers can easily move money over to CTV when rates rise. A word of advice? Reserve your premium inventory as far in advance as possible! You can always cancel them if needed. Pricing can be more difficult however, since advertisers don’t get to know the lowest economic unit rate the way they do with linear TV, which means clients have to rely on their negotiating and buying power.
Fragmented tv is a reality and the industry has to figure this out and stay on top of how the mix changes across streaming providers. Things are changing so rapidly it can be hard to predict the landscape, so its about building up the expertise to be able to sift the good from the bad – to navigate partners and vendors and keep them accountable, while understanding where each piece fits. The real problem though is reach. It’s a lot of trial and error in the CTV space to get the right frequency, reach and video completion rates across different vendors, but once you do, stick with it! The panel’s expert advice for vendor selection is to look for a true partnership that offers strategic advice and helps your team understand your voters in ways you don’t already. Look for data transparency with vendors and always ask for an inventory list upfront.
Overall, take a layered approach with the voter file, digital targeting, linear TV and so on. Be sure to adapt messages though. Since advertisers can be more granular with their targeting on digital, they have the opportunity to be more targeted with their messaging versus a national TV campaign for example. Ultimately political advertising is about telling a story creatively and understanding how that changes based on the ad format. People want to be heard and to feel a message that a candidate is trying to convey.
Big Takeaway #3: There’s a Time and Place for P2P Messaging
Off the Hook: P2P, Mobile Messaging and the New Door Knocking
Moderator: Sean Senters, Managing Director, Targeted Victory
Presenter: Hadley Chase, Director of Client Strategy & Experience, Rising Tide Interactive
Presenter: Dani Sorensen, Deputy Director, Fundraising, Blue State Digital
Presenter: Maddison Stewart, Deputy Political Director, Republican State Leadership Committee
As clients face more deliverability challenges on email, P2P can be more effective – use phone numbers instead of emails! P2P is great because a household may actually have only 2 of 4 voters, so you cant just target the household with a message or knock on the door, you really need to reach the individual, which P2P can do.
This type of messaging has increased since 2018 and in the future we can expect to see more of it in political advertising because it reaches voters where they couldn’t be reached through other channels.
Very different messaging should be used in P2P compared to other channels and for different purposes. On election day, a P2P messages can be especially effective at reaching voters or potential voters, when there isn’t enough time to let them open an email. P2P messaging has also been really effective for fundraising. Political marketers send out a message, and say something like “if you give us $50 we can keep this message going for another week.” Donors like this because they see exactly where their money is going. Balance fundraising and value in the best message that can be delivered through text. People scroll differently in text than elsewhere and dont want the only messages they get to be about fundraising.
MMS is crushing SMS, but tracking results is more expensive. Some also ask if text messages are too invasive. If as an advertiser you’re getting complaints and your unsubscribe rate isn’t overly high, take it with a grain of salt, but do focus on building programs where opt-ins are taken seriously.
That’s a Wrap on the MediaPost Political Marketing 2023 Event!
As the day went on, we heard about how Fetterman used authenticity, lofi graphics and dogs to win over voters, and also how PR professionals have been battling misinformation since Trump was in office. There was a lively presentation about Democrats using Tik Tok for the first time with tons of campaign examples, as well as a session about influencer marketing from The Director of Partnerships at The White House! We closed the day with a presentation about Brian Kemp’s campaign. There really was something for everyone at MediaPost’s Marketing Politics event, and we were grateful to be a part of it.
Feature Image: Unsplash/Lucas Sankey
Image 1: Screenshot taken by author January 2023 via MediaPost Marketing Politics Event