Holy Cow!

Spot-On normally uses the first newsletter of the year to reflect on the last and look ahead. This year we feel it necessary to start by channeling the late great Yankee shortstop (and poet) Phil Rizzuto.

Holy Cow!

There’s a lot more we could say – but none of it is printable.

A lot of things changed last year and some of those changes are going to keep rolling through this year. We don’t pretend to know the end game here; too much is still unresolved and incomplete. So rather than our usual predictions, we’re going to go with some observations that we hope are helpful.

We Are All Georgia

Now that it’s won big and won in the clutch, it looks like the Stacey Abrams approach to voter outreach is here to stay.  This could mean real battles in Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania and – this year – in Virginia as both parties look not at the lists of who’s voted but start compiling lists of people to encourage them to vote.

Local News On The Rise

There’s a trend complementing the Abrams-style outreach. Readership for local news sites – and elected officials interest in supporting those sites – has increased in the past year. News readers are voters – or likely to be voters.

Buying ads on local sites has two benefits. Campaigns and advocacy efforts can talk directly to people who are active and interested in their communities and likely to be voters. They can also talk to editorial teams and publishers – supplementing earned media coverage.

There’s a trend complementing this shift: Publishers are showing a much stronger interest in setting ad rates for their sites and reaping that revenue directly rather than from remote third parties. So many are curtailing platforms’ access and looking at their subscribers, the first step in being able to talk to advertisers in detail about their readers.

Targeting on the Decline

Last year started with a slate of privacy law changes at the state level but most were delayed by Covid stay-at-home orders. This year, with lawmakers finding ways to work with social distancing in mind, passage of these laws is likely to accelerate.

That’s the first blow to the use of voter data to target ads. There are some others.

  • A reluctance by ad platforms, long the go-to for political campaigns to run political ads – While Google and Facebook, the big players here, have come and gone on these issues, it’s likely that their legislative battles at the state and federal level might move political off the platforms.
  • New federal regulation –  The Federal Election Commission has a full slate of members for the first time in eight years. Its former Chair Ellen Weintraub has campaigned tirelessly for digital ad disclosures and disclaimers. It’s likely she’ll get something done this year.
  • Apple’s push to protect the privacy of its users. The most recent Apple software update will require opt-ins for tracking on all the applications it offers, including Facebook. This means iOS users – who tend to live on the Coasts, have high incomes and corresponding computer literacy and privacy awareness – are going to be curtailed.

The end result of all of this, as this Politico story put it: many consultants feel as though the rug has been pulled out from under them. It hasn’t really; we’re just seeing a long series of trends pile up on one another to create big change. Not like anyone in politics doesn’t get that.

If your outreach has depended entirely on platforms, that rug has indeed been pulled out. But if your scope has and is broadening, there’s plenty to see.

Spot-On’s approach to online ad placement for political has long concentrated on local, known outlets. We’re growing our list of sites and alternatives with our own Pinpoint Placement platform and other vendors.

Drop us a line and we’ll tell you more about how we can help you find a new run, some different platforms and a new way of looking at digital ad placement.

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