COMPETE Blog

March 2022 – A rundown of the Digital Ad Landscape and which platforms you should consider for your campaign

When we’re crafting digital programs for our political and public affairs clients, one of the most common questions we get asked is some variation of “Where on the internet should we show our ads?” Our answer to this is that everyone internets differently, so you should target your audience on as many parts of the internet as your budget and your path to victory allow. The best part of digital campaigns is that you can target audiences, not platforms. You don’t have to guess where your audience will be — with the right data and targeting techniques, you can essentially follow them with ads everywhere they go online.

To help folks better visualize where their ads will show, how they are being bought, and what targeting techniques we typically use, we’ve created our Digital Ad Landscape –>

The Digital Ads Landscape According to COMPETE

This is our jumping off point for ad distribution, with the area of each section being roughly the percent of an ads budget we’ll recommend going to each platform.

The parts of the graphic bracketed in Orange are the platforms that allow us to use 1:1 data to target your audience — a voter file, a list of lawmakers and their networks, a donor list, etc.

The parts bracketed in Blue either do not let political or public affairs entities use 1:1 data to target on their ads platforms, or, if they do, it is not very effective. However, they do offer other robust targeting methods, like:

  • Targeting Rachel Maddow’s YouTube channel to get to Democratic base voters or targeting followers of local politicians on Twitter to get to lawmakers and their staff.
  • Targeting an opposing candidate’s name using Search to direct traffic to a negative landing page.
    When deployed by experienced Digital ad buyers, these targeting methods are highly accurate.

We call this type of targeting “Dynamic Targeting.”

It’s important to note that every ad platform gives advertisers Dynamic Targeting options. There are a ton of use cases where Dynamic Targeting on Facebook, Connected TV, or the Wider Web will make sense for you to layer on top of 1:1 targeting for your campaign. It’s all about crafting the right buy plan for your unique campaign. 

WHICH PLATFORMS ARE RIGHT FOR MY CAMPAIGN?

Not every platform is in play for each political or public affairs campaign. There’s a lot of customization that you and your Digital partner should work through together to find the optimal mix. However, given each platform’s market share and targeting capabilities, there are some general rules of thumb that we work off of when putting together the right program for our clients.

Primary Ads Platforms for all Political and Public Affairs Campaigns

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google Display Network, Google Search, and the Wider Web and Connected TV assets we can 1:1 target on are the “Bread and Butter” ad platforms that we recommend in most of our programs, for both political and public affairs clients. These platforms are a great way to expand your total reach to your target audience. We estimate, very roughly, that 60-70% of the average target audience spends enough time on these ad platforms alone for us to fully saturate them with your message (Note: Saturating a target audience is very different than “Matching” to a target audience. Contact us if you want more info on the differentiation). Since most of our clients’ budgets are deployed on these parts of the internet, we call them our “Primary Ad Platforms.”

Expanded Ads Platforms for Political Campaigns with Big Audiences and Large Budgets

This next group of platforms — Digital Radio, Snapchat, and Reddit — make sense for political campaigns with big audiences (medium city and up) and large budgets who have already covered their bases on the Primary Ad Platforms. For these larger campaigns, these platforms are a great way to expand your total reach to your target audience. However, for smaller campaigns, these platforms are not viable due to them offering too low a volume of inventory with strong targeting options. For example, you can buy a lot of Digital Radio ads using the old school “Direct Buy” method, but you can’t do much volume at all using data and 1:1 targeting if you’re not in a big city or running statewide. The breakout candidate in this group may be Snapchat. Snapchat does have a pretty good volume of 1:1 targeted inventory to younger audiences. For certain campaigns with sizable budgets and a focus on turning out young voters as part of their path to victory, we usually will consider adding Snapchat to the mix.

Expanded Ads Platforms for Public Affairs Campaigns

These final two ad platforms, LinkedIn and Twitter, both have political ads bans that keep them off the table for political campaigns. However, we are usually able to get around those restrictions for our public affairs clients, and both these platforms are excellent for lawmaker pressure campaigns.

  • Twitter is the number one platform used by politicos, and lets you more or less target the followers of different Twitter users, which is a great way to hone in on legislators and staff in the geographic region of the Capitol or other government power corridors.
  • LinkedIn lets advertisers target 1:1 AND lets them target users based on their employer. If you’re trying to reach the governor of a state, you can target using “Works for the governor.”

If Twitter and LinkedIn allowed political ads, they would probably both make it into our Primary Ads Platforms (Twitter was in it before they implemented their ban in early 2020). Alas, for now, only our public affairs clients can take advantage of these excellent platforms.

DIGITAL ADS PLATFORMS ARE ALWAYS EVOLVING

All of this is subject to change, as the digital ad landscape is always evolving. Some Q’s we have our eyes on:

  • Will Facebook and Instagram start to give back significant market share and command smaller budgets?
  • How quickly will more Connected TV channels + suppliers open their content up to non-Direct buy advertising targeting options?
  • Will TikTok ever allow political ads?
  • Will Snapchat keep rising up the power rankings to get onto the Primary Ads Platforms list?

We will continue to evolve our recommendations as changes unfold.

I hope this rundown of the Digital Ad Landscape has been helpful to you! If you’re interested in learning what the right mix is for your campaign, feel free to reach out to me at my contact info below. We believe we are among the best in the space at crafting the right strategy for your campaign, using our long experience navigating Digital Ad auctions to reach your target audience everywhere they internet.

Schedule a meeting with me through this link here!

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