What Will The 2018-2020 Political Advertising Landscape Look Like?

jordanlieberman"AdExchanger Politics" is a weekly column tracking developments in the 2016 political campaign cycle.

Today’s column is written by Jordan Lieberman, politics and public affairs lead at Audience Partners.

One year ago, AdExchanger published an article focusing on the number of digital vendors moving into the political and public affairs market.

The pivotal quote: “The number of third parties setting up shop is crazy. There are a lot of leases being taken out, but I’d be concerned. Some of those offices are going to end up with tumbleweed blowing around.”

While the industry consolidates ahead of the 2018 campaign cycle, we will see new efficiencies in screen-agnostic targeting, solutions to the inherent flaws in cookie targeting and changes to the flow and pricing of voter data.

Consolidation

Our ecosystem was set up to accommodate what Borrell Associates promised would be $1.17 billion in digital advertising spend this cycle, but that was before a guy who turned off major donors and had 100% name recognition and skepticism of data became the Republican presidential nominee.

Gordon Borrell said last month he would have to lower his forecast downward. The only question is by how many hundreds of millions of dollars.

As 2016 Q3 and Q4 revenue numbers are released, Lumascape consolidation in our space will accelerate. We all saw the Adobe acquisition and Targeted Victory breakup; those won't be the last. There are simply too many shops selling the same thing without offering unique expertise. Companies bet the campaign cycle on knowing Corey Lewandowski’s personal email address. Oops.

The voter data and modeling industry has to go through significant transformation. The political advertising industry supports one or two partisan vendors on each side, plus one or two nonpartisan vendors. There are now more than 12 voter files available for digital buyers in various demand-side platforms, many with pricing lower than most companies need to make a profit. Some range from under $1 to close to $3, and I would expect that to fall a bit in the next year.

While voter data based on simple party affiliation is suffering unprecedented commoditization, shops offering sophisticated digital models will thrive because they are adding real value models that simply rely on partisanship and vote history. Those without high-end models will have to scramble.

We’ve been told “the future is now” when it comes to programmatic video buying in politics and public affairs. But sometimes technology doesn’t arrive with a bang; programmatic video’s arrival is gradual, awkward and messy.

As it stands today, digital platforms in the political space are selling television with low reach, quality or both. And television time buyers, who have been selling broadcast their whole lives, must pivot and explain how platform-agnostic audience targeting beats broadcast. For the industry to do better, the political and public affairs market has to let us punish bad data and inventory and reward the good.

New Tactics

The next campaign cycle won’t be all grim. Enough people entering the political and public affairs ecosystem understand that a screen is a screen is a screen. Authenticated IP targeting using the voter file will supplement cookie-based voter file targeting, allowing accurate home and away four-screen targeting for the first time.

This has only been available since MVPDs began to allow third parties to deliver anonymized voter file-targeted digital ads with their data. This will allow cross-device targeting on all devices without having to combine cookies, mobile IDs and set-top box data.

Outside of the cookie world, political advertisers geofenced specific parcels of land in the 2016 campaign cycle. Unless regulators overregulate, spend here will increase significantly in the advocacy season ahead of the next campaign cycle. Unified measurement tools are beginning to tell advertisers exactly how to shape their media mix to maximize efficiency. Velocity of data from field to digital buying platform will improve; get-out-the-vote targeting based on knocking early voters off the target list is real and will be more common in 2018.

You’ll also see more integrated automated creative and reporting tools built for politics and public affairs inside self-serve platforms. Consultants are demonstrating increased confidence in spending tens of thousands of dollars on DIY voter targeted ads rather than placing 3 a.m. calls to their vendors.

In 2010, ideology was prioritized over ideas. But Google, Facebook and Pandora paved the way for many companies to enter a post-partisan digital ecosystem, relying on best practices and avoiding situations where a partisan component to a tech stack can veto a client list.

Follow Audience Partners (@AudiencePartner) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

 

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