How do you capture part of the billions spent on local political campaign?

How do you capture part of the billions spent on local political campaign?

How big is the local political advertising pie exactly? MASSIVE. In fact, it is predicted by the BIA that $6.55 billion will be spent in local political advertising in 2020. That number is not a typo, it is an enormous opportunity.

So we know there is a huge pie, how is it being divided and what media is getting the most of the spend?  

  • Radio isn’t even forecasted to attract more the 5%. (Roughly $312 million (4.8%) will go to Radio, with the balance set to go to other media)
  • Over-the-air (OTA) television will earn most of the ad spend — 47% — at $3.08 billion.
  • Online/digital outlets will receive $1.37 billion (21%)
  • $919 million will be spent on multichannel video programming distributors, or MVPDs (14%).

Dr. Mark Fratrick, Chief Economist and SVP of BIA Advisory Services said, “Campaigns will continue to rely on television as a dominant platform for advertising while supplementing with digital advertising across mobile and desktop.

It is also predicted that the quantity of political advertising will differ significantly from market to market, based on the size of the market and the specifics of local elections. Los Angeles, Phoenix and Philadelphia are predicted to be the top three top local political revenue generating markets.

In each market, broadcast TV will receive more than $130 million in advertising, with online/digital ad spend getting over 25% of the total spend. Direct mail, normally a dominant medium in other categories, will only capture a small percentage of market spend in general. (Hello Household IP Targeting)!

So now that we know where the money is being spent, how does political buying in digital differ from political buying for TV and Radio?

To start, digital advertising is not covered by the “equal time” laws that TV and Radio must abide by (Communication Act of 1934, section 315 instituted the “Equal Time Provision”), so that drastically reduces the level of complications on inventory and changes how local political campaigns need to be managed internally.

So now we know there is money to be spent, how do politicians decide how much to allocate for ad budgets? To determine, we can first look back at 2016 (this was the last big presidential election cycle so it we have the most amount of data from 2016). The amount spent per eligible voter (using a political formula we will look at again later) jumped up to $48.87 in 2016 elections. It was also noted by Kip Cassino, the executive VP of research at Borrell that “2016 turned the page on what will happen in political spending moving forward, because targeted marketing absolutely replaced mass media.”

We know there is massive budget and we know digital is taking a big portion, so what political campaigns should you go after for digital advertising? Local! Local races and ballot initiatives (city, county, district) are your hot tickets. There are endless types of local races: Mayors, Alderman, City Council, Clerk of Courts, County Treasurer, School Board Member, the list goes on and on. And the budgets are not small, in fact, the average town council race candidate will spend $47,000.00

How do you find out who is running? Get ready to Google! Go to the Secretary of State website and County Board of Elections website and look for tab heading “Elections.” Most will list all candidates who have filed, and some have alerts that will let you know when someone new files. Most will also list the address and contact name of the campaign manager as well as the candidates name. Bingo, you know who is running and you know who to contact!

You can also google “who is running for office in ____” and list your county and state and see what you find. You can also check out Ballotpedia.org. Do a Google search for news releases announcing candidacy – these releases will often contain the campaign mangers info as well! Take the list of names you have compiled and then search LinkedIn for shared contacts or talk to local political parties to network and learn about local political consultants and agencies.

Now that you know who to talk to, it is time to set yourself apart from other advertisers by using an outstanding Valid Business Reason to get the appointment. Give the campaign manager or candidate a good reason why they need you and demonstrate you are thinking about the campaign from their prospective.

For example:

  • Ask, “Do you want to reach Super Voters? People who have voted in the last three elections.  We can use your Super Voter database to reach those people online.”  (Talk about Household IP Targeting, Native or FB Email Matching/Lookalike).
  • Ask, “Are you interested in targeting Hispanic people with your ads online?”  Be prepared to talk about all the ways you know how to reach the Hispanic market with their message.
  • Pull political success stories that you have access to and share those. 
  • Emphasize you are local media and know how to get hyperlocal with digital advertising.
  • Let them know you can target exact households they want to reach using their database list of voters, at a high frequency. (Household IP Targeting).
  • Let them know you can target an email list of voters that they have and serve those people ads when they browse websites and apps online (Native or FB Email Matching/Lookalike).
  • Talk about how you can target specific types of people such as ethnicity, income, political affiliation, lifestyles.
  • Ask the clients if they are Facebook verified to run political ads – we are!

Now that you have the appointment, do your homework and prepare for the Client Needs Analysis Meeting.

Prepare questions like:

  • Who is the target voter? (age, gender, income, political affiliation, interests, etc.)
  • Where do they live?
  • What is your “win number?” (how many votes are needed to win).  Remember the formula I shared earlier? To help determine budget, use the last number spent in 2016 and set a budget: Votes Needed x $48.87.)
  • Does the candidate (or issue campaign) have a database of names and addresses they want to target?
  • Do they want to have different ad creative for different voter targets?

Some final tips for a successful campaign:

Stay away from Retargeting and Conversion strategies – few voters go to candidates’ websites. Set the expectation that clicks and click-through-rate will be low – it’s not about clicks – it’s about votes! If using Household IP Targeting the frequency needs to be VERY high- 3x a day per household if possible. Time is of the essence; local political advertising typically starts 30-45 days from election day.  We at Vici wave our 3-month minimum on campaigns for political campaign as we understand the timing and urgency.  Also note that all ads (display and video) must have a “paid for by” statement or they will not pass audit.  The same is true for issue related campaigns.

Keep in mind, there is often a longer approval time before political campaigns start serving. Getting the campaigns 3-4 days (minimum) prior to launch is important. Also, on measurement for political, we would recommend over-targeting a couple of areas to be able to give your clients results on how we impacted the campaign.

Now you are armed with who to prospect, ideas on how much they are spending and where to prospect. Enjoy the races!

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