Trends to Watch in Political Advertising – A Q&A with Katelyn Duff


Adotas presents a Q&A with Katelyn Duff, Chief Revenue Officer at Division-D

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  1. What are the latest trends in political advertising?

We’re seeing several emerging trends in digital advertising as we look to the 2018 midterm election. One of the biggest trends is how political advertisers are taking advantage of opportunities with connected TV (or CTV), a format that provides the best of both broadcast and digital worlds: a more captive and attentive audience, watching on a big screen, but with targeting for relevance that isn’t possible with traditional broadcast buys. We’re also seeing an increased focus on ad placements in prominent local and regional outlets, and stronger interest in high-profile digital ad formats that help cut through the clutter to reach voters.


  1. Has there been a shift in the way political advertising is executed?

Ad strategies are shifting along with changes in technology and voter habits. However, political advertisers continue to focus heavily on generating strong presence across local media channels. Division-D is seeing increased demand for its scalable network of local and regional newspaper and broadcast news websites. In addition to seeking strong reach across local channels, political advertisers are also looking for more finite geotargeting capabilities. If a congressional campaign needs to reach just one side of a city or county via a local outlet, the combination of a strong local news presence and hyperlocal geotargeting helps ensure no ad impression is wasted.

We’re also seeing renewed interest in higher-impact ad formats like the Rising Star Billboard, which covers the entire width of the page, as well as the interstitial ad, which loads between pages in a separate window. These formats have proven to deliver strong engagement compared with traditional display ads.


  1. What opportunities do big-screen digital ads provide for political advertisers? 

Broadcast ads have always been effective in reaching audiences that are more attentive with powerful messages delivered on a big screen. But the challenge in traditional broadcast is targeting – it’s difficult to cost-effectively reach a targeted audience. CTVs are changing that by opening a range of new opportunities for political advertisers to more effectively target the audiences they’re trying to reach. CTVs also provide a platform through which a client can track more measurable results than what is available through traditional broadcast media.


  1. How can political advertisers be sure they are targeting the right voters at the right time?

Voter file targeting and voter affiliation targeting continue to advance, enabling advertisers to get their message in front of the right segment of voters at the right time. For example, a candidate may want to focus their message on likely undecided voters in the midst of a campaign, then shift to their likely base to help get out the vote as the election nears. This type of targeting has been common for the past several election cycles and continues to improve over time.


  1. Why is localized advertising so important? What strategy should advertisers use? 

 Localized advertising is key, particularly in mid-term elections. For Congressional races, advertisers need to ensure that ads are reaching the right geography for their district. Otherwise, they’re wasting ad dollars on voters who are not eligible to vote for their candidates.

In general, local media outlets are very credible and sticky, with voters turning to these outlets for background on the local candidates and issues that they’ll be voting on. Because of this, they’re ideal outlets to share relevant messages via advertising as well.

Combining high reach across local news outlets with strong geotargeting tactics will be an effective strategy for any political client during the coming election cycle.


  1. Sometimes there are just too many ads! What are the most effective ad formats to break through the ‘display ad clutter’?

Voters are exposed to a flood of information in multiple forms over multiple devices over the course of the day. Political advertisers need to focus on the right targeting, placement with the right outlets, and development of ads in the right format to maximize their ability to effectively reach voters. New, high-visibility ad formats are very effective in spurring engagement to help advertisers reach their campaign goals.

High-impact units such as the Rising Star Billboard and Portrait units really help to cut through the clutter that is perpetuated by standard display ads. Because of the larger format of the ads, the units see increased user engagement and interactivity, driving high click-through and conversion rates.

Pre-roll video is another high-impact way to cut through the “display ad clutter.” Video ads promote interactivity and provide a better format for informing and educating viewers. The emotional impact of video ads is significant. A candidate can build relationships with voters through video ads by connecting their emotions to the message.


  1. With all of these ad options, is there an overall best strategy for political advertisers?

Virtually any campaign ad strategy should start with targeting. Voter file targeting and voter affiliation targeting help ensure that messages are reaching the right segment of the population at every step of the campaign, while geotargeting helps to ensure that ads are focused on voters who are relevant for a given race.

From there, the most effective strategies will focus on the right mix of ad formats, delivered via the right outlets. High-impact CTV ads, video pre-roll and digital ad units are all proven to be effective in making a message stand out. And when those high-impact ads are placed with local and regional publishers that are highly relevant with targeted voters, the campaign strategy is running on all cylinders.

The final element of an effective strategy in 2018 is flexibility. Campaign strategists will need to keep a close eye on the regulatory environment as regulators sort through potential concerns brought to light in the 2016 election cycle. Leaders should look for experienced partners who can help them navigate any regulatory changes that may develop in the months ahead.


  1. How does the evolution of digital advertising technology affect the political landscape?

Digital ad technology is dramatically changing political campaigns. Simply put, the campaigns that best understand and take advantage of emerging digital capabilities have a distinct advantage. We’ve seen this play out over the past several elections, with winning campaigns consistently using the latest digital advertising tools at the time to more effectively share their message. It’s a trend that will undoubtedly continue with this year’s midterm.

The good news for all campaigns is that technology continues to improve every election cycle. Advertisers have more options than ever before, and more control than they’ve ever had as they implement their strategies. But it’s still very much a competition, with both sides working to use these evolving tools in new and better ways.

This puts a premium on digital advertising expertise. Just as much as they need to craft the right message, campaigns need to secure the right partners to ensure that they’re using the latest digital tools to share that message most effectively.


  1. How does Division-D identify the right strategies to reach voters?

Division-D has more than 15 years of experience in political advertising. We’re steeped in all of these emerging technologies, and work directly with each client to help them develop and execute strategies that achieve their goals.

Division-D differentiates itself in two key areas. First, we offer a scalable network of local and regional newspaper and broadcast news sites that spans across the U.S., offering hyperlocal reach into every DMA across the country. This provides unique advantages for advertisers seeking to reach voters in specific geographies. We create custom media plans to align with specific initiatives and seamlessly execute those media plans with expert account management teams that handle ad operations, trafficking and optimizations.

Second, we have highly advanced targeting capabilities within the political vertical that allow us to effectively reach custom audiences on behalf of our clients. By offering hyperlocal reach, advanced voter targeting, and strong account management and executive direction, Division-D can ensure that campaigns are delivering on their objectives.


About Katelyn

Katelyn Duff is Chief Revenue Officer at Division-D, a leading direct-to-publisher ad network facilitating digital media buys between top brands and publishers. Founded in 2003, Division-D has been named by Inc. 5000 as one of its fastest-growing private companies five times. It is a Quantcast measured network.