It’s less than two weeks until the presidential cycle kicks off in Iowa and the campaign spending really starts flowing in races up and down the ballot. A few questions for once the voting starts:
1. How will new ad targeting restrictions play out as digital spending ramps up?
Google’s recently-announced ad targeting restrictions elicited plenty of angst among digital strategists. One of the greatest concerns expressed by strategists on left: the inability to target via the voter file will mean campaigns will end up spending far more digital dollars in an attempt to achieve the reach they need.
A couple of things to watch for here as the money starts to really flow: 1) How will campaigns, particularly those at the presidential level with lots of money at their disposal, alter their digital spending patterns over the next two months? And 2) Will more dollars really start to flow to DSPs, some of which are now offering inventory that’s very much in demand.
Something very much worth noting on that last point: As Sara Fischer of Axios reported last week, advertisers can technically still target Google’s inventory via DSPs, but if Google sees political advertisers “trying to deliberately circumvent its rules, it will consider taking action against those accounts.”
2. What will massive TV ad spending mean for campaigns down-ballot?
Digital spending is trending upward and significantly so. But what we know from the ’18 cycle is that the more money congressional campaigns are able to raise, the more they’re going to spend on TV ads. Expect more of the same in 2020.
Early signs indicate the money will be flowing, likely at record-setting levels, in contested House and Senate contests this year. So the demand for TV time will be high. As Politico reported this week, one thing that’s complicating that equation for some campaigns is the unprecedented amount of TV dollars currently at the top of the ballot, which has in large part been driven by the money Michael Bloomberg is spending — money he plans to continue to spend regardless of how long he actually remains in the race for president.
3. How quickly will OTT come of age?
Even though we expect enormous amounts of money to be spent on linear TV ahead of this fall, ad dollars will continue to move to new channels. Near the top of that list is OTT.
Some 97 million homes now have a connected TV device, “equating to over 75% of all homes in the United States, and surpassing cable TV households,” according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). The current forecast on spending anticipates an increase from $3.8 billion this year to $5 billion in 2020.
The question of how much political spending end up on OTT this year is partly one of scale. As Targeted Victory’s Katie Spannbauer notes: “It's possible it steals some of the planned targeted YouTube budgets, but OTT still isn't doing voter file targeting at scale to really steal a lot of the targeted voter file digital budgets.”
4. What will take the greatest leap forward in 2020?
The thing about innovation in a presidential cycle is that we can be certain it’s coming. By the time we reach the end of the summer and officially have a two-person race for president, there’s little doubt we’ll be talking about new tactics we’ve yet to consider.
Something to watch closely: how campaigns use relational organizing and the increasing number of tools available to leverage personal relationships at scale.
Last week’s FWIW newsletter from ACRONYM highlighted something new on this front from Pete Buttigieg’s campaign in Iowa: “They’re running ads featuring straight-to-camera videos made by supporters using their cell phones, then targeting those ads directly to voters within those supporters’ communities. In doing so, his campaign is empowering his supporters’ voices and digitally amplifying some of the best political messengers they can get to convert others to caucus for Pete – the voters themselves.”