Crisis Driven Changes

Thinking differently about how to run your campaigns? It could be time to change up your digital ad game as part of that process. 

Two online publishing trends are coming together in a way that should encourage political campaigns to think differently about the tried-and-true method of reaching voters with digital technology.

First, the lingering and slow death of the 3rd party cookie, brought on by fatigue, frustrationand fraud, along with the enactment or threat of enactment of online privacy protection laws means the most popular means of buying political ads, known as “programmatic advertising,” is losing its shiny gloss.

That gloss included the ability to use redacted voter information in an attempt – in Spot-On’s eyes, an overstated one – to target specific voters. With the death of the 3rd party cookie, alltargeting loses its effectiveness.

At the same time, attention to local news sites, spurred on by the Covid-19 Pandemic – has increased dramatically. McClatchy, which has outlets from California to Miami – says its online readership is up by more than 60%. They’re not alone.

Things were headed this way even before the pandemic. In late February, Pew Research Center found that 75% of the folks they surveyed – from both political parties – did not believe Facebook or Google would be able to prevent election interference on their platforms. Another survey found that readers were more trusting of the ‘open web’, not platforms, meaning they trust ads on news and information sites, not the platforms’ walled gardens.

When it comes to TV, well, there’s more acceleration of existing trends that change campaign outreach.

Cable and satellite are seeing a slowdown in growth. One analyst told Variety:  “There are now as many non-subscribing households (46M) as there were pay TV subscribers in 1988.” In other words, the number of folks using online to access information and entertainment is now the size of the early days of the cable TV business – when political advertisers began to notice.

The pandemic is creating problems for political campaigns that won’t disappear with any fall-off in illnesses.  

Door-to-door outreach – the go-to voter contact method since Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign will change – that’s if campaigns are even using it.  And vote-by-mail is on the increase as more states solicit voters to register for that process. 

So, what to do? Well, as we said, these trends are accelerations – not new ground. So, there’s room to adapt.

Online publishers were looking for ways to reclaim ground lost to Facebook and Google before the pandemic hit; voters  distrusted social and other platforms before the crisis.  The use of vote-by-mail and remote contact tools like Zoom and WebEx isn’t new it’s just moved away from the office to daily life. Cable subscriptions have been falling for a while and the use of voter ‘targeting’ has been on the wane for at least a year.

But change is hard – even in the best of circumstances. So here are some real-world suggestions on how campaigns might adapt

Buy your political ads directly from publishers. It’s not just good business,  it’s good politics. Publisher are paying more attention to their website than ever before. Your ads will be seen – and appreciated.

            Spot-On has a database of more than 4500 trusted local news sites. We can tell you who serves your district and advise you on options and buying strategies.

A well-run online ad buy can avoid waste – without voter targeting.  Advertising on trusted news sites reaches voters. Look for ways to target by geographic and zip, not just voter lists. And use high-impact ads that can generate attention both inside and outside the newsroom.

            Spot-On’s new Pinpoint Persuasion buying platform lets you see your buy before its executed so you know where your ads are running and can see their impact on your campaign.

Plan now for fall outreach. Once pandemic panic fades, it’s going to be harder to draw voters to real life events. Help your virtual outreach efforts – phone calls, texting and video meetings – with targeted local ad buys that tell people reading the news what you’re doing so they can join in.

            With its database of more than 4500 trusted local news sites, Spot-On can help you plan ‘air cover’ for phone, in-person or virtual meetings that get voters to you and your event. 

Want more? Drop us a line and let us show how our new platform makes your ad buying easier, clearer and more secure. 

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