- By STEVEN PERLBERG
As ad tech grows, so goes the nation.
Marketers these days have more tools at their disposal to reach consumers online, thanks to advances in Web advertising like audience targeting, automation, real-time bidding and social-media platforms like Facebook.
That political campaigns would want to utilize the same tools as marketers to reach potential voters is not a new phenomenon. But ahead of the 2016 election cycle, the political and advertising worlds are gearing up for greater use of tech-driven ad buying, as Americans are increasingly latched to computers and smartphones.
The ad tech firm Rocket Fuel, for example, said it would grow its politics group to work with political advocacy interests. Facebook has also pitched itself to 2016 presidential campaigns to show off new tools to reach would-be donors, the New York Times recently reported.
Campaigns in past cycles have used information about consumers’ personalities and interests to target ad buying. These days, marketers are increasingly making use of complicated data and targeting tools to buy their ads more efficiently. Political advertisers are interested in doing the same, according to Chris Choi, head of media at Blue State Digital, an agency that serves political groups.
“More and more campaigns are using their own data and putting that to work,” Mr. Choi said.
The idea, Mr. Choi says, is to capture the “most hardcore” supporters. That might mean showing political messaging to someone who has purchased a certain type of car or bought golf clubs as he or she traverses the Internet later on.
But digital ad firms still have to make their case to campaigns that often revere television.
“When you buy on digital, that means you’re not doing something else,” Mr. Choi said. “While the overall pie has grown, the digital folks need to continue to make the case why buying digital is more efficient, more targeted and more measurable.”
Overall political TV ad spending could total $4.4 billion this cycle, up from $3.8 billion in 2012, according to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. Another report suggested online political ads could reach nearly $1 billion this cycle.
Of course, digital advertising encompasses a lot. There’s buying ads in real time using tech-driven software — and then there’s picking up the phone to purchase a huge banner ad.
“I’m a little surprised that some campaigns that talk about how technical and pro-Silicon Valley they are still do a lot of site buys,” using phones and emails instead of automated technology, said Zac Moffatt, co-founder of Targeted Victory, a digital outreach company.
Mr. Moffatt’s firm is among a group of specialists seeking to allow candidates and causes with smaller budgets to apply a “big data” approach to campaigns.
Data targeting tools have also extended to the television world, as campaigns use tools from firms like Rentrak and Nielsen to find ways to purchase TV ad time beyond typical age-and-gender demographics. Mr. Moffatt’s firm, for example, advised one Colorado Congressional candidate to buy spots on TV Land because it over-indexed with Republican voters, CMO Today reported last year.