Political advertising is big business. In the UK, The Conservative Party spent £1.2million on Facebook campaigns alone during the 2015 election cycle. This shows that political advertisers understand the power of digital advertising. Yet if you look closer, it’s clear that many are simply trying to transplant traditional media into the online channel.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Video, where the predominant strategy is to repurpose TV ads into pre-roll spots, resulting in a substantial missed opportunity. For all the granular targeting these campaigns are leveraging, including geographic and voter-record based audience modelling, they seem to be failing to take advantage of how that data can be used to deliver powerful interactive messages through video.
There is a tremendous opportunity to deliver smarter, engaging ads that will inspire a consumer to cast their vote. Fortunately, it’s easy to remedy these mistakes.
Failure to engage
The heart of the issue is that politicians are trying to deliver their message to as many voters as possible. They go for frequency and scale, with the hope that a voter who sees an ad will click through to the campaign's website. Yet video allows for much deeper engagement, without the voter ever leaving the player environment.
Campaigns can do this by adding interactive elements to the player. For example, a campaign could run a basic 30-second ad spot and deploy an overlay as the video plays. If the viewer accepts the invitation by clicking the overlay, they are taken to an interactive area where they can further engage with the interactive portion of the video. That may include a gallery of shorter videos with the candidate discussing his or her stance on different issues. The voter can then choose to watch additional videos on the issues that matter to them, whether that is education or social justice. Other interactive features include the ability to read about a candidate’s positions, view campaign events, or click to create a calendar invite for those events.
Yet another way campaigns can boost engagement is by adding a “share” button that allows the voter to easily post the message to social media. This maximises the value of paid media through additional earned media, which is one of the distinct advantages digital video and display have over traditional TV advertising. When TV spots are repurposed for online without interactive elements, it wastes this potential.
Leveraging real-time insights and news cycles
If there’s anything we’ve learnt from the election campaigns of recent years, it’s that storylines can emerge instantly, dominate the conversation for days, and then disappear just as quickly. It’s difficult to plan for unexpected twists and turns, but online advertising makes it easy for campaigns to update their messaging in a matter of minutes through dynamic creative elements.
In some respects, this is no different than a politician issuing a statement or using their Twitter feed to voice an opinion. It’s an agile form of advertising that both consumer brand marketers and political campaigns are missing out on.
Of course, it’s uneconomical to turn every single video ad into a bespoke interactive unit. Campaigns are best served by creating an interactive template that allows voters to engage with a candidate’s high-level positions, and can be used to encase every video ad over the period of the campaign. When combined with agile advertising, this template becomes a vehicle for delivering up-to-date messaging.
Going beyond branding
We’ve established that video can be interactive and adaptable, but there remains a perception that it is only good as a branding channel used for building awareness. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While Video is the ideal channel for exposing a candidate to a wide number of viewers and educating them on the issues, it can also be used for acquisition campaigns.
In the political sphere, this includes everything from fund-raising campaigns to voter registration drives. If there is a donation goal, perhaps following a well-received speech, then campaigns can leverage both the engaging elements and personalised messaging to deliver more relevant and targeted adverts that drive consumers to donation pages through the video messages.
Leveraging performance data
Political campaigns are using voter and geographic data to identify potential undecided electorates in battleground constituencies. However, that’s not the end of the data trail. If a campaign builds engaging interactive ad units, those ads themselves will produce data signals that allow the campaign to refine their ad message and strategy.
A voter who watches and interacts with a video ad is indicating what matters to them – they are essentially raising their hand to say, for example, “education issues matter more to me than the economy”. These signals allow a particular campaign to lead with the issue of interest as it retargets that voter and pursues others with similar behavioural profiles. It’s worthwhile to expose voters to a wide range of issues within a candidate’s platform, but it’s best to use dynamic creative elements to deliver more information related to an issue a voter has already expressed interest in. This insight allows the campaign to deliver personalised messaging that better resonates with voters, resulting in smarter spending.
In the end, the real goal is for political campaigns to build video ads that go beyond a basic message to deliver something of value to the voter. Rather than only reusing their TV spots, campaigns need to think about enriching their ads and taking full advantage of what’s possible online, in terms of interactivity and data. Video offers consumers more information and allows the campaign to gather more data about what truly matters. This can make all the difference come election day.