How modern advertising platforms are reaching voters in all 50 states

Erik Brydges, head of political, Xandr

Midterm election season is in full swing, and political advertisers have been gearing up for a high-stakes election cycle with major social issues on the ballot.  

While there’s typically more focus on presidential elections, experts predict that advertising spend will be roughly the same in the 2022 midterm cycle as in the 2020 election, reaching nearly $9 billion. With thin margins in the U.S. Senate and House, every seat matters for how the next two years of President Joe Biden’s term will pan out. And in 2022, it’s clear that the decisions made by lawmakers at the state and local levels will have the most significant impact on voters’ day-to-day lives. 

Unlike a presidential election, these down-ballot contests will take place across the country for control of state legislatures and local governments. The districts are smaller, as are the audiences and geographies, meaning political advertisers must be able to advertise in a specific state and district about a particular campaign. 

No matter which side of the party line they occupy, advertisers must employ a political advertising platform that can navigate regulations and reach voters in all 50 states.  

Political advertising platforms can offer solutions to address nuanced regulatory environments

Many states have unique political advertising regulations that apply primarily to state and local elections. This evolving patchwork of legislation and some platforms’ responses to those requirements have led to operational challenges for political advertisers.  

The state-based regulations on political advertising and how some platforms have responded to them have made it difficult for buyers to launch campaigns efficiently and meet each state’s specific requirements. Campaigns that are acceptable in certain states or districts may be barred in other regions. These varying regulations and responses make it difficult for advertisers who are charged with running campaigns that need to advertise in all 50 states.

In response, successful political advertisers and publishers are using end-to-end platforms that work up and down the ballot in every state. These help them launch campaigns instantly with a dedicated workflow, providing the necessary information for regulatory compliance and maximizing revenue capture during the political season. 

Advertising platforms scale reach and efficiency for hyper-localized audiences  

Effective voter outreach calls for a new set of strategies that take into account the present political landscape. The advertising tools and platforms that helped candidates succeed in past election years — such as linear TV — are declining in use. This year, CTV political advertising spending is projected to hit $1.5 billion, nearly one-third of linear TV spending, highlighting how voters consume video content through streaming services at higher rates.   

Digital channels offer a massive opportunity for political advertisers this election cycle as they allow for more granular audience and geo-targeting. A candidate running for election in New Jersey might purchase a linear buy in the NY DMA. This would reach a large audience, but it would also reach voters in the other states within the tri-state area that aren’t even eligible to vote in that election.  

Because broadcasting geographies don’t always align with political districts, which can contribute to inefficient media buys, political advertisers seek more efficient options that provide more granular and relevant targeting for political campaigns. Programmatic and CTV are vital components of this strategy and help drastically reduce wasted spend by ensuring the right voters are targeted.  

Linear TV is no match for what CTV can offer political advertisers when it comes to reaching specific voters. Targeting political geographies and setting up ad placements within a high-impact environment helps advertisers reach voters based on their interests while making real-time campaign adjustments.   

However, CTV and premium video inventory are packaged and sold through private marketplace deals, and buyers face immense challenges accessing this supply. To overcome this, buyers are turning to platforms that provide efficient access to the supply paths where CTV inventory is available.

Buyers are using advertising platforms to deliver messaging to voters in every locale

It can be argued that the ability to connect with voters in every state digitally is necessary to the country’s overall democratic process. In the past, not all advertising platforms accepted political advertisements in certain states, arguably paving the path for incumbents to have an unfair advantage over challengers. 

Exclusions and restrictions on paid advertising do not always apply to organic search platforms. In these situations, the incumbent candidate usually spends more time in the public eye, so they often show up more prominently in the search results. Therefore, challengers rely on paid advertising to get their names and campaign platforms in front of key voters. Without that option, political advertisers will have more difficulty bringing awareness to new candidates or challengers to voters in their districts.

In recent years, political advertisers have faced many challenges, with major players and walled gardens changing the requirements of what they accept and some platforms even banning political ads entirely. Consistency and reliability are paramount to delivering effective political advertising in this space. Success for these advertisers in 2022 means working with advertising platforms that understand and thrive in this nuanced vertical.

Sponsored By: Xandr

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