Google joined Twitter in restricting political advertisers on their platforms, announcing new limits on targeting – mostly allowing only gender, age, and ZIP code targeting on YouTube, the Google Display Network, and Search. Pressure is on Facebook to follow suit and it’s been reported that similar restrictions on targeting are under consideration.
These changes will significantly alter the way campaigns advertise on these platforms and campaigners need to develop their new online strategies now.
We cannot afford for digital budgets to revert to legacy media including TV, mail, and phones because time spent on digital channels in the U.S. now totals more than six hours of the day:
Here are four things campaigners need to do in response to restrictions on political advertising.
You Still Need to Invest in Google and Facebook
Even if targeting options are limited, you still need to be advertising on Facebook and Google. Together they account for a significant amount of time spent online. Your voters are still on these platforms and you still need to be reaching them. Even if targeting is less precise, they’re still more efficient than broadcast TV, provide better insights than mail, and higher response rates than phones.
Targeting restrictions will change the style of play when it comes to advertising on Facebook and Google: ad creative will need to be less specific and appeal to broader audiences, making it more akin to broadcast messages. List building through petitions on Facebook will be much more difficult if they implement similar restrictions.
Buy From Other Sources
While Google (with YouTube) accounts for 43% of the online advertising market, there are other advertising networks and publishers with significant reach and inventory. Combined with available data targeting options, you’ll be able to more narrowly target your voters with messages they need to hear in banner and video.
Use New and Emerging Campaign Tech
Campaigners seeking to reach key voters directly should allocate more of their digital budgets into new and emerging campaign tech, including peer to peer texting and technology-enabled relational organizing tools like Swipe Red. Numinar, a new platform that brings artificial intelligence and machine learning to campaigns, makes your analog and digital voter contact smarter and better targeted. Voterfied is another new tool that campaigns can use to get important feedback online from verified, registered voters.*
Invest in Infrastructure and Own Your Audiences
The attention economy has made it quick, easy, and cheap for campaigners to reach large audiences at scale, but the current changes mean we need to return to our roots by investing in political infrastructure, including email lists, SMS lists, and website audiences that we own.
Political organizations and parties have served this function for decades and now it’s time to get back to the basics.
These restrictions on targeted online political advertising are seismic but campaigners can’t afford to take their eye off the ball and divert spending from digital as a result.
*Disclosure: I’m an investor in these three companies via Startup Caucus but I would recommend them even if I wasn’t.