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The Challenges and Solutions of Political Targeting

Political and public affairs targeting can be tricky and requires top-notch skill to determine the right amount of investment in order to impact public opinion and win elections. Simplicity and self-service are key to effectively reaching important constituencies.


There are vast challenges when it comes to this type of targeting, but an effective campaign strategy and media plan combined with the right ad platform can make the difference between winning and losing.


Political Targeting Challenges


The biggest challenge with political advertising is waste. Many impressions can end up being delivered to the wrong voters, or even worse, in the wrong district. According to Joel Sawyer, sales leader at media and data company a4, “you can have some fantastic modeling in terms of your broadcast advertising buys but you’re always going to be communicating with people who don’t care about your message.”


Reaching the right audience is crucial. But there are too many opportunities to go wrong. Impression delivery is often uncertain — for example, Nielsen has analyzed dozens of display campaigns in recent years and found that millions of impressions ended up being delivered to the wrong people. Traditional IP modeling often means that the audience just isn’t who you think they are. Ad delivery is difficult when there isn’t an exact science behind the targeting method.


Political targeting in and of itself can be challenging. It means trying to “influence” rather than getting someone to take a specific action, like simply purchasing an item. It’s not just about clicks — clicking an ad is just a bonus; the target has to be affected by the ad.


Available Solutions in the Industry


Audience-based data means there is no more guesswork about the right kind of targeting or who the audience is. There is an unparalleled level of precision now available in political and public affairs advertising.


“With audience-based digital targeting, the candidate can drill down to people who care about the message — they care about the specific message you’re defining,” Sawyer says. “When targeting digitally, everyone you’re touching is someone you’ve identified as a member of your target audience. It’s a zero waste solution.”


a4 offers digital targeting that reaches that more precise audience. It offers a combo of “authenticated addressable digital” and cookie targeting that serve digital ads with unmatched precision and drive superior results versus other digital targeting methods.


For authenticated addressable digital, a4 partners with 10 of the top 12 internet service providers in the U.S. to enable privacy-compliant household addressable digital ad targeting. ISPs assign IP addresses to consumers’ households when they sign up for broadband service. As IP addresses change — which they do often — a4’s technology instantly maps the new IP address to the physical address of that household, enabling the ongoing delivery of targeted digital advertising with the precision of the U.S. postal system.


For homes that don’t subscribe to cable, a4 extends campaigns with cookie targeting. a4 can reach more of a given target audience with the authenticated addressable digital + cookie combo, which drives stronger results for the ad dollar invested.


“Authenticated address digital is unparalleled in its accuracy,” Sawyer says. “Modeled IP targeting is notoriously inaccurate. At best, you can hit someone in the same zip code on a good day. Modeled IP produces wildly inaccurate results and could call into question doing digital advertising in the first place.”


The benefits of authenticated addressable digital and cookie targeting are showcased in a4’s platform CG Direct. This self-service voter targeting platform that allows candidates to easily target voters on their own with technology that maximizes voter reach.


CG Direct provides on-demand access to campaign performance metrics so clients can personally monitor results in real time. The always-on, always-accessible planning and activation platform gives candidates the ability to:


  • Easily set up and run digital campaigns across desktops, tablets and mobile devices
  • Build audiences and target by party affiliation, voting frequency, districts and demographics using the National Online Voter File®
  • Upload custom lists and get quick-turnaround matching
  • Use the combination of authenticated addressable digital targeting + cookies to reach more relevant voter
  • Create comprehensive, on-demand performance reports that reveal the best ROI potential


The Future of Political Targeting


What’s next for political targeting?


“Custom lists are going to be huge in the 2018 cycle,” Sawyer says. “I’ve spent a lot of time talking to political consultants who believe that the traditional ways of defining turnout audience will be less useful in 2018. Some advanced modeling is going to be needed to really drill down to who constitutes the audience of 2018 voters.”


With custom lists, consultants will be able to find their audience, without having to rely solely on traditional models. Candidates can now run their campaigns and do their own modeling offline and upload much more precise lists of people they’re looking to communicate with. Less waste means more effective campaigns.


More sources of inventory will become available in the near future. There will be more informative demographic data and even quicker turnaround times with CGD, according to Sawyer. “It’s going to become faster, more accurate and more robust,” he says.


Accurate and informative reporting will continue to be important in the future. “We will understand more precisely how many people in the audience receive impressions how many times. There is a correlation between winning campaigns and robust digital programs,” Sawyer says.


a4 recognizes the importance of continuing to develop data capabilities and technology in the fast-paced political advertising market.


“I think the future of political targeting lies in continuing to improve true four-screen solutions. We will have a greater ability than we already do to reach the right person no matter what screen they’re on,” Sawyer says. “Eventually, we can become screen agnostic between TV, laptop and mobile. For example if I want to serve a particular message 40 times we’ll be able to more precisely measure the receipt of that message no matter what screen they’re on.”


But the most significant thing that matters when targeting voters is the message itself. “If you’re running political campaign the most important part is that people see and internalize the message,” Sawyer says. “Two or three weeks later when they step into the voting booth, you want to make sure they remember.”