It’s approaching summer vacation time. While we are getting ready by stocking our coolers and tossing beach chairs into the back of our SUVs, a few politicians are starting to wake up to the fact that it’s nearly crunch time. This is especially true among the 19 or so hopefuls seeking relevancy in the Republican Party. The home team media outlet has already drawn a line in the sand to cut the field to ten for the debates. Candidates understand that there are only eight months until the first primaries, and the challenge for too many of them is finding a way to get noticed.
There is a campaign plan. There is a fundraising plan. There is probably a broadcast media plan. However, to be noticed in this connected world, the other spoke in the wheel that will need attention is the online plan.
Moving online with email lists, Facebook and Twitter have made proven contributions to most campaigns from 2008 through 2014, but it will not be enough to move the needle in this next political cycle.
Email and social will continue to be critical in nurturing the base and eventually getting out the vote. But in order to have an impact outside the walled gardens of planned campaign events and make your social “likers” count, candidates will need to take advantage of next-gen ad tech infrastructure. They will need to go big and go bold.
The ad tech tool set has changed and it has matured. Campaigns can still target voter histories, but now they can combine that with targeting individual businesses, restaurants, universities, events, rallies, and issues preferences. Real-time bidding technology now supports cost-effective reach to aligned voters across all kinds of devices, whether that voter is on a smartphone, tablet, desktop, or even watching television. A plan for going big and bold online is both completely possible and probably necessary if you want to be noticed, especially in a crowded field.
A simple four-step formula to consider:
Align – Putting the right message in front of the right voters is the first and most important step. Today, real-time bidding and programmatic targeting allow candidates to start offline (like creating a direct mail list) to execute audience building in a much more transparent and deliberate manner. Leveraging public voter data and multiple life stage, interests, and location-based attributes, a candidate can determine the constituents who will best align with the platform and map them to their online presence. There is no need to buy into segments with sophomoric labels like “soccer-moms” or “pay-check planners” any longer. Demand actual counts of the unique users you are targeting and get profiles of what they look like — before you run a single impression.
Sign – “Keep it simple” really applies. Online campaigns aren’t like television ads where communicating “likeability” or the “feel” of a candidate is all that matters. With online advertising there is a one- to three-second burst of visual identification when your advertising message is delivered and when it must be cognitively linked to a candidate. In this 2016 political cycle, online will provide more visibility and unique voter reach than any other platform, including television. That one second of recognition must tie out to your core message. “Sign” up for that same message again and again, because it may be the only reason a voter will notice you.
Reach – Being able to reach your target audience at scale and across devices is key. It’s simple math. Reaching one-third of your target voter audience will not win you many elections. On cookie-based platforms, voter match rates can be dismal at 20% to 30%. Only half of browser traffic supports third-party cookies and a user can have multiple tracking cookies, leading to massive duplication and waste. Mobile is on a path to bypass desktop in Internet usage. Cookies on mobile devices are effectively useless. There are location-, wifi-, and IP-based alternatives that can provide both the unique user coverage and the targeting required. Make sure your efforts to reach the right voters aren’t being confused with reaching only a few of the right voters.
Repeat – You’ve reached the right audience. You’ve delivered the message you want, and you’ve been noticed. Now it’s time to follow up. Attribution tools allow you to link impressions delivered to the audience that saw the ads. Being able to evaluate and segment impressions served, link them to the media they prefer, and locate them by geography and device is important for maintaining a persistent presence with the voter.
Align, Sign, Reach and Repeat. It is how major brands reach their customers, and it can work for candidate in 2016.