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How Political Campaigns Can Leverage A New Media Platform

"Streaming media, and OTT content in particular, are in many ways purpose-built for political campaigns. OTT delivers the same premium high-engagement content as broadcast and cable TV, but with the advanced-targeting capabilities, one-to-one addressability and real-time flexibility of digital." -Richard Kosinski, Tru Optik

Over-the-Top (OTT) TV and streaming audio content, delivered via Connected Televisions (CTV), mobile devices and smart speakers, have rapidly evolved into viable paid media platforms. Three out of every four U.S. homes have access to Connected TV, and more U.S. homes have a CTV device than have a cable box. The story is similar for streaming audio with over 60% of the U.S. population – 169 million individuals – listening to streaming audio weekly. With the rapid growth of OTT and streaming audio content, political advertisers are considering how to best use these channels to reach and engage their target voters.

Digital ad spending is expected to more than double compared to the last presidential election with streaming media like OTT and digital audio experiencing especially sharp growth. Tru Optik expects 2020 political ad spend in OTT to be over $500 million and in streaming audio to be over $70 million.

Recent presidential elections have coincided with the rise of new digital platforms that played a pivotal role in reaching voters and deciding outcomes: search starting in 2004, social from 2008 and online display in 2012. In 2016, political advertisers spent more on digital video than cable TV. Streaming media is poised to be the game-changing platform in 2020.

Once established, history has shown that as these new platforms grow in usage by people, they grow in usage and investment by political campaigns. Political advertisers sometimes take a conservative approach to new media. Not all candidates or ballot initiatives will leverage the unique targeting power and storytelling capabilities of CTV and streaming audio. Those that do stand to gain a significant and early-mover advantage:

  • CTV will be essential to reach key demographic segments including young voters, upper-income households and multicultural audiences in 2020. These cohorts are over-represented among the growing legion of cord cutters and cord nevers, which means up to 40% are effectively unreachable via linear TV. Voters under the age of 35 spend more time listening to streaming audio than terrestrial radio.
  • CTV and streaming audio enable targeting on political interests and behaviors, such as party membership, past voting behavior and issue orientation for more effective advertising reach and messaging.
  • The ability to tailor campaign geography to voting districts is an unsung advantage of streaming media for political campaigns. Streaming media campaigns can be configured to neighborhoods, municipal boundaries, congressional districts, and state borders so that every impression lands within the relevant election zone of registered voters.

Embracing new media capabilities can drive results at the ballot box. In 2012, the Obama campaign hired 100 data scientists to hone its messaging and media planning. This analytics-driven approach optimized messaging and spending, helping Obama carry critical swing districts, such as Cuyahoga County, Ohio, which was crucial to winning Ohio. These days, data & analytics -- especially for digital media -- are an integral part of most political campaigns.

Streaming media, and OTT content in particular, are in many ways purpose-built for political campaigns. OTT delivers the same premium high-engagement content as broadcast and cable TV, but with the advanced-targeting capabilities, one-to-one addressability and real-time flexibility of digital.

Here are three key observations and considerations around streaming media, through the lens of someone who’s had a front-row seat to emerging media platforms for politics since 2008:

  • Reaching Hard-to-Reach Audiences
  • OTT reaches more U.S. households than cable and satellite combined, and arguably could be the backbone of the TV plan for many political campaigns. Most campaigns continue to lean heavily into linear TV, however linear TV’s reach has declined by over a third among key demos since 2016. The only way to reach these voters on television is to include OTT in your media plan.
  • It’s All About the Graph - Accurately Identifying Voter Audiences at Scale
  • Not all OTT targeting platforms are created equal. Some reach only owners of certain CTV brands. Others rely on signals from user-level devices like laptops and smartphones to model CTV audiences. Be sure to ask the platform you’re planning to use how many CTV households it can target in your election geography. Also inquire as to how they ascribe attributes like demographics and voting behaviors to CTV audiences.
  • Accountability & Measurement – Measure Reach and Frequency to Optimize Campaigns.
  • Measurement is vital for political campaigns closely managing their ad dollars. Reach and frequency analysis provides necessary data to ensure campaigns are not wasting ad dollars or irritating viewers by repeatedly delivering the same ad to the same household.
  • Verify that your measurement solution has the scale to report both reach & frequency at the granularity required to manage your campaign (geography, publisher, daypart, etc.). Accurately reconciling all OTT screens (CTV, Mobile/Tablet, Desktop/Laptop, even gaming consoles) to a person or household is a prerequisite for valid OTT campaign measurement – be sure your measurement provider can do this.

Streaming is the future of media, and that future is already here. Ad-supported OTT and streaming audio have graduated from emerging to mainstream in just four short years. Campaigns that embrace these powerful new advertising platforms today should have a lot to celebrate come November.

Tru Optik’s identity resolution powers the streaming media ecosystem.The company’s patented Household Graph of more than 80 million U.S. homes enables the world’s leading brands, agencies, media companies, and platforms to engage consumers across OTT, streaming audio, and gaming with unmatched scale, accuracy and privacy compliance.