Advertising is critical for candidate and advocacy campaigns in the coming weeks because of the difficulty in reaching voters through earned media during the pandemic.
Now, not every campaign or organization has the budget or the desire to stay up at the moment. But for those able to maintain a paid marketing budget, creating a positive experience is more important now than ever.
There’s anxiety among Americans who are experiencing unemployment, which may eventually climb as high as 32 percent. Consumers are more constrained than ever, and will better respond to marketing experiences that are positive or useful.
The best way to market authentically to voters is to keep their needs at the forefront and be a consistent presence in their lives. Here are three things to consider about your media placement in the coming weeks:
1. Overthink the audiences and the control of the ad delivery environment
Defining a solid strategy will rely on knowing your audience intrinsically and understanding that there are sub-segments of it that must be treated distinctly.
For our clients who are trying to reach people based on their attitudes around healthcare, there are many motivating factors, including cost, personal health status, and personal politics.
We market to them distinctly by motivation to create a more positive experience. This is both in the way we speak to them and where. Setting the right tone with creative cannot be emphasized enough. The best media buy in the world will always fail if the message isn’t right for the audience.
The media mix should reflect the sub-segments and either their attitudes or known consumption habits.
Even with targeting that stems from first-party data, reach extension is frequently necessary.
First-party data buying doesn’t require as much control of the environment as broader targeting does because of how the audience is developed. But in sensitive times, even-greater attention to quality controls need to be enacted, especially frequency caps and blacklists to manage the user experience and avoid fatigue.
Most people will treat first-party targeting like “set it and forget it.” The advertiser owns the data, so they also already have a relationship with the people they’re targeting. I suggest avoiding going the complacency route because advertisers need to be more diligent about the experience their audience is having than they were already.
Audiences are increasingly aware of the bulk-buy ad model where a single spot dominates an ad pod, whether in streaming video or on television. Rather, they become more aware of a message when seeing ads in disconnected environments.
For instance, to reach new healthcare-interested audiences during this sensitive time period, I am recommending content environments that are contextually-aligned to healthcare, news, and incredibly limited within lifestyle content.
My objective is that I’m only associating my client with the prospect audience’s healthcare considerations. As individuals spend more time at home but are pulled in different directions with family and work obligations, marketers should ask less of their audiences. In other words, marketers should only take up the space that they belong in.
2. Change your buying approach — for now
During any other time, or with campaigns where I have access to first-party data, I prioritize expansive reach. But not overwhelming my clients’ prospects is a key strategy right now. Finding a balance between being highly visible and too visible will be a balancing act for most political marketers in the near future.
To further the control, I will be looking more towards direct buys and deals than I have in years. If any geographies I reach are shifted in priority, I would consider takeovers on the local news sites, to both control the environment and underscore the relationship between my client and that local community.
Generally, buying trends will need to change in the short-term.
For example, podcast listenership is down, which demonstrates how much of that platform’s consumption was tied to a commuting habit that isn’t yet taking up new space in consumers’ lives.
During rush hour, what are consumers now doing? They’re online more than they were a few weeks ago, that’s for sure. But they’re on websites or social media and it’s the same environment just with more available impressions.
Buy more site-direct and treat exchange-based media with even more care and intention now — then re-diversify the media mix in a few months when people get back to work.
I will also be rethinking my offline approach over the coming months. I anticipate that life will return to normal, even if in stages. But for now, the realities of media trends need to guide my approach.
I invest a lot in outdoor, radio, and television as well as digital. Over the coming months, I will be analyzing the markets where offline media might have been a factor and determining how to treat each market differently.
In markets where shelter orders have been in place for a while, outdoor is not currently effective. But strategy and planning might also re-normalize these mediums. If I’m targeting people based on lower income status, focusing an outdoor buy specifically around clinics and hospital centers will still reach my target audience, and likely at a reduced cost during this crisis. Keeping the needs of your target audience and the sub-segments that comprise them will guide these choices as well.
3. Keep search in mind
Regardless of the crisis, always include paid search in the marketing mix — even if the budget allocation is sub-optimal. A daily search presence, if nothing else, ensures your organization’s name will be visible as a resource.
As consumers’ lives change, they’re accessing media to a greater degree than ever, and much of that increase is fueled by digital. Finding the right paid media strategy during this time cannot and should not be about maintaining pre-crisis reach and frequency.
The strategy should be developed with more care towards audience segmentation and ad/content alignment than before and with the undercurrent of maintaining a presence among the most critical sub-segments of a target audience throughout this time period.
Jenny Smuland is associate media director at ICF Next in Fairfax, Va.