With the presidential election rapidly approaching, political advertising is well underway. It is a year like none other in so many ways, but there is one thing both sides of the aisle are getting behind—advertising on connected TV (CTV).
Audience time spent on CTV was on the rise before the pandemic, but COVID-19 accelerated the trend. Advertising on CTV enables political advertisers to find and connect with registered voters—some of whom may not have linear television. Let’s consider the factors driving CTV adoption, including the medium’s innate advantages, and the role CTV will play this election season.
Media behavior drives CTV adoption
Based on discussions with political advertisers and their spending thus far, CTV will account for a larger percentage of the political marketing mix than it has in past election cycles. Advertisers are aware that time spent on CTV is increasing, in part because people are home more and not taking advantage of entertainment opportunities that require them to leave the house.
In March 2020, CTV device usage was up 81% year over year, according to Nielsen. As of June 2020, CTV usage was still above pre-pandemic levels, while traditional TV usage had normalized. According to an Unruly study, CTV outperforms linear in several key areas — after seeing an ad, CTV users are 71% more likely to tell a friend and 48% more likely to have an improved opinion.
TV has always been king for political advertisers. They believe the “big screen” is the optimal medium for their ad message. So, to reach viewers who no longer have traditional television while still advertising on the biggest screen in the house, or to complement their linear strategy, political advertisers are embracing CTV.
New data policies impact political advertising strategies
Another difference this year for political advertisers is that Google/YouTube TV has restricted first and third-party data for targeting purposes. Advertisers are limited to Google’s demographic data. Twitter has banned political advertising, as have Spotify and Adobe. These changes could make CTV targeting capabilities particularly impactful.
On CTV, advertisers can use third-party data, such as registered voter data, to inform their targeting and significantly increase return on ad spend.
Every vote counts. Political advertisers are crafting sophisticated strategies to connect with voters, particularly those who are undecided. Political advertisers can leverage automatic content recognition (ACR) technology to reach audiences more precisely across video devices and to retarget individuals on the “second screen” based on what they are watching on television. Let’s consider a hypothetical for political advertisers.
If someone is watching a political ad for President Trump on CNN, Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign can retarget the user on their mobile phone with a message based on the programming they are watching. This tactic, called competitive conquesting, is gaining popularity.
Candidates can magnify their message by retargeting people who are watching their TV ad with complementary mobile ads. People are often multitasking on mobile while the TV is on, so this strategy ensures candidates don’t miss a chance to connect with a voter.
Timing is everything
Another change this year is how political advertisers are timing their spending. At least ¾ of voters are eligible to receive a ballot in the mail—the most in U.S. history—and millions will vote this way. Some states, including Washington and Oregon, are using a universal vote-by-mail process, so some Americans have already voted.
In the past, political campaigns ramped up mid-September through Nov. 2, with a tidal wave of spending in October. This year, that will be too late to reach some voters. CTV can help to reach voters as soon as possible, and you never know when they will be casting their ballots.
CTV is no longer an ad hoc medium for advertisers to test — with its usage and effectiveness climbing while linear stabilizes, it has become a channel that political advertisers cannot afford to overlook. It has earned its line item in the budget. Additionally, with audiences’ increased time spent on CTV, coupled with cord-cutting and some platforms’ digital targeting limitations, it is likely that political advertiser adoption will only continue to climb.
Paul Plawin, Politics and Public Affairs Sales at Tremor Video is based in Washington, DC. In his current role, Paul focuses almost exclusively on Tremor Video’s political ad sales strategy and is working with multiple digital ad agencies and candidates helping them reach registered voters in contested battleground states. Prior to Tremor Video, he worked for RealClearPolitics.com, Conversant Media and Governing.com. He’s been in the DC area for the past 15 years working with political and issue/advocacy clients helping them meet and exceed their digital marketing goals.