Political campaigns are placing more emphasis on digital advertising – some, like Elizabeth Warren, even announced bringing ad-buying house. What are the new rules of political advertising in the digital space? Is Native the answer? We investigate how politicians could thrive if they play the digital advertising game right.

Political Ads Will Run More Digital Ads This Year Than Ever

That’s right. The L.A. Times dove deep into the political campaign advertising landscape. According to Borrell Associates (a firm that tracks advertising data) via the L.A. Times, during the 2014 midterm elections, political campaigns and groups spent less than 1% of their ad budgets online. In 2018, the share was expected to be more than 22%. The main draw? Digital advertising is less expensive than traditional TV, radio and mail ads. It also can be tailored to relevant consumers. 

Read more: Political campaigns will run more digital ads this year than ever. Here’s how they’ll find you 

The OG of Content Marketing, Thomas Paine, Was Onto Something

That’s right. Remember Thomas Paine’s 1775 Common Sense pamphlet that swept our fledgling nation and planted the seeds for a revolution? As Sean Callahan discusses in this Linkedin piece, it followed the core principles of content marketing.  Its success was largely due to its simple, direct prose that the “everyday” person could understand, bringing politics from the elite to the masses. Thomas Paine established himself and his movement as “thought leaders” and won the trust of a massive amount of people, incited action, and effected change. Talk about engagement!
The political leaders of today who will succeed in winning votes via their digital advertising efforts will succeed if they establish themselves as experts, thought leaders, and directly address their readers. 

Read more: More Than Words: The Power of Political Content Marketing

Native Ads Will Fare Better than Display 

While Native Advertising might have a sticky history with politics – one particular Norwegian piece made headlines for misleading readers entirely with an entire candidate interview published under the guise of being journalism, when it was, in fact, a paid-for advertisement – the reality is Native still gains more trust and favorability with consumers than Display does. 71% of US internet users believe banner ads are more intrusive now than ever before (Millward Brown), while ⅔ of consumers find Native Ads interesting and informative (NAI).
Native Advertising should be viewed as a form of high-quality content marketing that offers relevant information to interested readers in a relevant context. Content consumers – voters – would still always rather be offered Native Ads to engage with rather than bombarded with obnoxious display/banner ads. Let’s not forget that only 0.05% of users click on banner ads (SmartInsights) at all, as rising distrust has led users to ignore them completely – a phenomenon now dubbed “Banner Blindness.”

Read more: Elizabeth Warren Brings Ad Buying In-House

Context is Everything

Native Ad engagement thrives when the ads are placed on contextually-relevant sites. So, yes, a political ad targeted to a viewer on a site where they are reading about new Fall boots to buy will seem creepy, but placed on a page of a news site discussing the upcoming election or last night’s debate will seem relevant. Relevant contextual placement, or contextual optimization, catches the consumer when they are already seeking more information, all but guaranteeing engagement. When consumers are already seeking new information, they will welcome more content to engage with.

Read more: Context: The Answer for Ad Placement

This all begs the question: how innovative is the advertising plan for political candidates, from the local to the national level? What kinds of content do voters trust and what are they less likely to read? Which formats and placements are the most appealing and which will bring the most engagement? Only time will tell. 
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