Online Advertising Heats Up for 2012 Election Cycle
In political advertising, the majority of a candidate’s advertising budget is usually spent on TV. While this will not change in the 2012 presidential campaign, the total amount spent on online media will increase by 354% from the 2008 presidential campaign. So in the 2012 presidential campaign, expect political marketers to focus their online efforts heavily on online video, as it is a consumer-friendly, interactive and persuasive format for their campaign messages.
By Rebecca Johnson, Strategist
In the 2010 mid-term election, political campaigns spent approximately $78 million on online media, a $50 million increase from the 2008 presidential election. This spike can be attributed to shifts in U.S. voter media consumption and the intensely contentious and “too close to call” election match-ups. Another key difference is that the 2008 online ads focused heavily on fundraising and sign-ups, while 2010 online advertising centered on swaying voters to be for/against candidates, or on enhancing a candidate’s platform. This shift was essentially one from direct call-to-action messaging (“support us now” or “get out and vote”) to messaging that was brand or candidate centered.
For the 2012 presidential campaigns, expect the same two trends (increase in online advertising spend and candidate-centered messaging) to continue. However, 2012 online media campaigns will have one major shift from their 2010 mid-term election counterparts: a heavy emphasis on online video ads in an attempt to influence voters and incorporate immediate calls-to-action.
In 2012, with approximately 30% of the U.S. population not watching live TV — preferring either DVR programs in order to skip through the commercial breaks or watching TV programming online or via their mobile devices — getting in front of this audience is critical for the success of political marketing campaigns. To do this, marketers will utilize online video ads, be it pre-roll advertisements or videos embedded in Flash/rich media banners. Political marketers will look to expand the reach of their video ads by streaming before/during/after content on YouTube, Hulu, news sites, inside banner ads, through ad networks and beyond in order to reach this target audience and to supplement the reach and messaging of their television spots. Implications and Action items
While it’s impossible to see the future, the 2008 and 2010 political campaigns offer key insights into where 2012 online advertising may be headed.
- Don’t put your eggs in one basket. While a fair chunk of the U.S. population isn’t watching live TV, this doesn’t mean you can get to them online, because approximately 100 million Americans are not reachable via online media, owing to a lack of Internet access. The challenge here is to figure what, if any, media they are consuming and how to best message them via that media.
- More persuasion ads. Video ads, be they on TV or online, are what’s going to persuade voters: 2010 political campaigns realized this and for 2012 they use the interactivity that online video allows to up the ante in their efforts to motivate specific behaviors and actions.
- Extreme targeting. With campaigns focused on getting tailored messages to specific slices of the electorate, they will turn to online media buys and ad networks that can empower that type of micro-targeting. Look for heavier online display in key geographic areas in the last few days before voting.
- Media sell-out. Candidates will buy online advertising, in specific geographic and demographic hotspots, earlier in the year than previously. Scarcity or even sell-outs of display advertising is real and could have serious impacts on election outcomes.