How Political Advertisers Might Harness Google Advertising
Channel Factory Insights

Online News Will Blow Up In 2020: Here’s How Political Advertisers Can Take Advantage

Video, especially live video, is one of the fastest-growing media channels, according to CNN Digital VP of global video Wendy Brundige. She reported that CNN had 542 million unique multi-platform video starts in September 2019. 

Cross Screen Media and Advertising Analytics estimates the digital video ad market for politics at $1.6 billion, representing a 116% increase since 2018.  Most placements will be bought programmatically, with 82.% of US digital video ad spending forecast to be transacted in automated channels next year, according to eMarketer.  But, this doesn’t tell the whole story. Just as earlier elections revolutionized the market’s approach to social media advertising just as use of the platforms was exploding, this election cycle will see new innovations in digital video as it surges in popularity.

Social platforms may be introducing measures to limit problematic political messages, but plenty of opportunities exist for political advertisers to effectively reach rapidly growing digital video audiences. Brands and viewers alike will be approaching election 2020 with a new set of tools at their fingertips and which will test the concept of digital advertising in several ways.

The Emergence of New Quality and Suitability Approaches

First and foremost, political advertisers will have to walk the line between innovation and suitability with new guidelines in mind. With issues such as national security, gun rights and foreign policy on the table, it’ll be important for campaign media planners to use guardrails to avoid running ads against content which implies poor media planning, at best, and outright adjacency insensitivity at worst. Audience targeting will still provide political campaigns with targeting options on major news networks, but new forms of contextual targeting on Google and elsewhere will come into the spotlight as limits are being placed on audience data.

With that in mind, campaigns will likely be employing a blend of whitelisting and blacklisting in their media plans to ensure they run against ideal content and in ideal contexts, while using blacklists to achieve scale that steers clear of off-reservation keywords and topics.

At the same time Facebook announced it will give viewers the ability to limit political advertising sometime in the summer, while not doing any fact checking themselves. It might seem like a good thing for political advertisers, but the lax standards will mean an inundation of wide ranging content and messages for readers to sift through. This might mean that campaign advertisers will need to get creative to reach a large portion of skeptical moderates overwhelmed by an unfiltered political ad barrage on the platform.

Innovative Contextual Targeting

In a recent announcement, Google writes: “…we’re limiting election ads audience targeting to the following general categories: age, gender, and general location (postal code level). Political advertisers can, of course, continue to do contextual targeting, such as serving ads to people reading or watching a story about, say, the economy.” Contextual targeting is a familiar concept, but Google’s options have broadened considerably since the last election.

For example, custom targeting could be built around trending queries related to upcoming debates, debate topics, candidates, and top issues (healthcare, abortion, unemployment, immigration, wages). Campaigns might also use Google Trends to identify which states are currently leaning towards which party. A search in Google Trends for “Republican” reveals that Connecticut was #1 for interests by region, while  “Liberal” was #1 in Kansas. These simple findings can yield very useful, near real-time information about shifting interests and opinions in key geographies. 

New Approaches Across Every Digital Channel

Creative teams will be likely to also lean into longer-form videos in keeping with the latest findings from Google. This 2016 Think with Google article highlights that the traditional :15 and :30 videos don’t provide users with enough information to make decisions and if its a subject that’s important to views they will take the time to watch a longer-form video.

Organizations like ACRONYM — a progressive non-profit — are exploring use cases for TikTok, including using influencers to encourage voter registration, and it’s likely the same approach will be used on other channels like YouTube and Instagram, too.  Influencers from the very famous to the very niche can all help create a groundswell of content and viewership online that conveniently sidesteps advertising all together.

Advertising will still hold sway, of course. With so much spending on programmatic, data and algorithms will play a bigger role than ever. Political media buyers aren’t just focused on building their database of consumers, they’re now also focused on building their database of effective messages, creative and content adjacencies. Already, the Trump campaign is sharing various versions of the same message on platforms like Twitter in order to quickly learn what content works with which audiences. The same approach can be applied on digital video ads across the major news networks through a programmatic media buying partner or on platforms like Google and Facebook. 

The irony is that many brands historically avoid news content, while political advertisers in many ways are the news. This massive swing in spending towards content that can often be avoided by other industries will create its own momentum. Look out for more innovations that aren’t just for political advertisers, but rather, offer other brands opportunities to make the most of the massive increase in news impressions in 2020 and beyond.