Anyone who’s fired up a computer machine in the past few years has noticed some big changes in the way the internet is working. Between technology advances and Russian interference, the ad world is changing—fast.
The next phase is clear: money has to move out of the world of social media and into the bigger digital ad universe. Social media advertising spending worldwide is predicted to grow by 73 percent over the next five years across all industries, according to the CMO Survey. For the political world, this drives our costs upwards and our efficacy down, particularly as our targeting and availability is more restricted than ever.
Let’s look at the three biggest ways we need to adjust our strategies as we head deeper into 2020.
Changes in available ad platforms.
If you’ve tried to run a political ad on Facebook in the past three years, you can attest—our ads platforms are changing the rules, and they’re changing them often. It’s not as easy as just starting a campaign page and walking through the DIY promotion steps—now, Facebook requires more proof of identity than the DMV.
Other platforms are struggling to figure out how they can secure political spending, so they’re pulling the plug all together—most recently, Twitter, Google, and Spotify have announced they’re leaving the world of political advertising or severely limiting the targeting parameters.
But here’s the good news: there’s a lot of available ad space that isn’t hamstrung by social media giants. In 2019, Facebook and Google dominated the advertising market, accounting for 59 percent of all digital advertising dollars spent across the board, and 64 percent of all mobile advertising expenditures.
Most digital advertising inventory lives outside of the realm of social media. And that number is only set to increase now that much of the social inventory isn’t available to political advertisers.
If we’re only spending our ad dollars on the remaining few social media platforms, we’re only taking advantage of less than eight percent of opportunities to speak with our target audience.
That’s why serving ads in a programmatic, cross-platform way is more important now than ever before.
In the past, advertisers blasted out ads with general targeting parameters, hoping to saturate a market segment based on broad sweeping demographic data. Today, our job is to follow people, not platforms—wherever they may be: connected TV, digital video, display, and streaming services can all work together to reach your specific target audience with a layered message.
Changes in the advertising experience.
Because the average individual is spending more time online than ever before, we’re also becoming better able to catch advertisements and mentally process them accordingly. At the end of the day, people generally don’t mind advertisements, as long as the ad experience is a good one.
As we think through our target audience for each ad, we can’t ignore the type of ad experience they want. The old way focused on blasting out a centralized message as frequently as possible and hoping it was absorbed. Now, we have the benefit of two-way communication and instant engagement with our advertisements—so it would be malpractice on our part not to consider how that engagement follows through to the ultimate action goal of the ad.
Treat the advertisement as more than just the front-end creative—what happens when you click the ad? Is the landing page mobile friendly? Remember a large percentage of people engaging online are doing it from a mobile device. Does your video content include subtitles?
Hint: captions not only improve success rates across the board, they’re incredibly helpful for our friends who may have hearing losses or difficulties. Does your advertisement present the truth in an ethical way? With the rise of fake news and inflammatory rhetoric, we have a moral and (I’d argue) civic duty to engage with the public with honesty and transparency.
Today’s ad experience is about more than just sending a message—after all, even the most eloquent speech loses its appeal if the microphone isn’t on and your audience isn’t listening. We must dialogue with voters and engage them in the process from the moment they see the ad through conversion.
Changes in how we reach voters.
Our voters are more mobile than ever before—it only follows that our ads should be, too. The average American spends 6.5 hours of every day online. That’s roughly 40 percent of all waking hours if you actually sleep a full eight hours. Of those hours, approximately 48 percent is spent on a smartphone.
As our voters are becoming more mobile and our advertising content is becoming more visual, we have the opportunity to layer the advertising experience to reach voters in new, exciting ways with each point of contact.
The old way of advertising involved placing each ad buyer in a silo—TV, print, digital, radio were all purchased separately by buyers who seldom communicated or coordinated. Today, we have the opportunity to integrate each voter contact point, layering communication in meaningful ways to achieve the greatest return on investment.
At the end of the day, digital advertising is just one more way to reach voters and expand the reach of our candidates and causes. Yes, it’s an extremely powerful tool, but it’s also one that we must use wisely and responsibly as we move forward into 2020 and beyond.
Beth Clayton is the VP | Creative at Boulder Strategies, LLC and Turn It Blue Digital, where she focuses on providing resources to down-ballot Democrats at an affordable price. She received her J.D. from Birmingham School of Law and her B.A. in Public Relations from Auburn University (War Eagle!).