Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know its an election year. And it would be an understatement to say that a lot has changed since 2016, especially considering how much has changed in the last few months. From withstanding stretches of tornadoes across the southeast to multiple earthquakes out west, to, you know, a pandemic, let’s face it—2020 has already been a long, strange year. The United States has had to weather quite a few storms both literally and figuratively.
The year started with the crushing blow of losing one of sports’ most influential athletes in history, Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash with seven other people, including his daughter. Soon thereafter, the coronavirus took hold of the world. As a result, the NBA canceled what remained of the professional basketball season, we lost NCAA playoffs, Coachella was postponed, SXSW was canceled, and so was the entire baseball season. And even though these things may seem trivial given the current circumstances, we should remember that sports, art, and music can cross cultural lines in a way that almost nothing else can. So suddenly, everything changed as we knew it.
All the while, our politicians were dealing with a Senate Impeachment trial, the rapidly rising tensions with Iran, and the Democratic caucus voting app debacle. Countless aspects of the local community as well as the political arena have been affected by the ongoing pandemic. Schools are closed. Restaurants are closed. There are a lot of uncertainties. Will it be safe to go to local campaign rallies? Will it be safe to gather at a location and cast physical ballots?
Finding the Positive
Most of the country has been facing months of stay-at-home orders, which have proven difficult, but there is a significant silver lining—the increased investment in local businesses and community support. In every town and every city, there is a distinct feeling of “we’re all in this together.” But without the opportunity to hold live debates or campaign rallies or grab dinner at the best Mom & Pop Italian place in town, candidates are going to have to find new ways to reach voters in their communities. So how can politicians reach voters in a way that is even remotely as impactful as something like an inspiring live speech or a one-on-one, face-to-face interaction? Well, first thing is to figure out who and where those voters are.
The past four years have been a challenging time for a lot of Americans, causing shifts in their values and perspectives. We saw one of the most diverse Democratic primary candidate election landscapes in the history of our country. And for what seems like the first time in a long time, people are actively participating in our political process like never before.
Hyperlocal Market Research
Even before the coronavirus hit, people had begun to shift their affinity away from big brand names and toward local ones. Small businesses and local communities were thriving. Now people focusing even more on supporting their roots, and every local political campaign, from city councils to school boards, is going to shape the zeitgeist of millions of voters. So with all of the impending state and local elections in addition to the Presidency, it’s more important than ever to understand exactly where and who your voters are.
The right research on your targeted voter segment will prove invaluable in making impactful interactions throughout a campaign. Who are they? Are they Boomers or Gen Zers? Do they work full time? What political parties are they currently registered to? Where do they live and vacation? What are the major issues plaguing their community? Do their children go to public school or private school? Figure out who they are, and then use that to compile the strongest possible voter list.
From there, politicians running local campaigns should leverage the benefits of artificial intelligence. Voters are listening more than ever before, but it doesn’t really matter if a candidate’s message isn’t being delivered. The artificial intelligence nature of digital targeting, through data collection, can provide invaluable insights for running local political campaigns. Building a comprehensive audience profile first, then the right digital campaigns, can enable algorithms that not only optimize content but also ensure it’s reaching the right audience.
Go Digital with Hyperlocal Targeting
So once the voters are found, how do candidates reach them with messaging that truly resonates with their values? Political ads that are relevant to voters should seamlessly integrate into their current media habits and incorporate issues that matter to them.
- Streaming Services—With the rising use of streaming services due to more people staying at home, OTT/CTV and audio streaming platforms are great ways to integrate content messaging at a time when your audience is highly engaged.
- Local Targeted Mobile Marketing—Using location-based mobile marketing and localized keywords is going to have the strongest impact on running digital campaigns. The geo-targeting ensures ads are served efficiently to potential voters in the area. And in addition to that, mobile ad units have inherently high interaction rates. That’s because users are not only already regularly engaged on their devices—making searches, reading articles, using social media, etc.—they’ve also expressed interest in the content they’re consuming. Location-based mobile marketing is really a win-win for advertisers and have proven highly successful.
With all of that in mind, strong tactics can only get you so far without compelling messaging. And since everything in politics is relevant, a one-size-fits-all creative or media approach isn’t going to work. Messaging will have to be customized based on insights from ongoing research.
Understanding local sentiment and catering messaging effectively is the real challenge. Creative has to find the right balance of showcasing a candidate while still conveying the major issues and themes that resonate most with their voters. Given the dynamic nature of their audiences, candidates will need to connect with people by proving they care about the same things. Making connections is what politics is all about, but once you’ve grabbed the attention of voters, the question then becomes, “How can candidates show their investment in local communities without physically attending events, hosting , or supporting local fundraisers?”
In times like these, technology will be a politician’s biggest ally. They’re going to have to truly expand their advertising efforts to reach audiences in a new way. Candidates are going to have to do things like:
- Write native articles
- Share videos regarding their platforms and giving speeches
- Host Q&As on Twitter
- Utilize going live on Facebook or Instagram
Things are going to change in this election cycle. And to make things even more interesting, this is the first election where Generation Z will be able to vote. Gen Zers are the largest population in American history, comprising 27% of the population, and are undeniably the tech generation. So, they’ll undoubtedly influence future campaign outcomes.
In the digital age, it’s easy to forget about the power of touch, but ironically enough, magazines are having their Britney Spears comeback moment. Then again, when you think about it, reading a magazine has always been one of America’s favorite ways to unplug. 91% of U.S. adults read magazines, and 82% of U.S. internet users trust magazine ads over digital when making purchasing decisions. Consumers trust magazines. They always have, and they always will.
And the most amazing thing about magazines is their staying power. Some publications have spanned centuries and have chronicled some of the most defining moments of the world as we know it. Magazines remain a powerful medium in a crowded media space at a time when people are craving new ways to escape their routines. Time at home is at an all-time high, making our lives increasingly more digital and plugged in, but that doesn’t change the fact that the general trend over the last few years has been the desire to unplug.
The beauty of the 21st century is that we’re living in a time where digital and print can not only co-exist but can also complement each other. We can unplug and plugin at our leisure. Digital is the perfect opportunity to enhance more traditional placements such as magazines or TV, both of which have always been major players in the political advertising arena. Digital extensions of magazines boast tens of millions of users monthly.
Using a cross-device approach will help emphasize calls-to-action. A consistent CTA is crucial for measuring success. If your CTA is newsletter subscriber sign-ups, reinforce your messaging by serving an ad that prompts users to sign up who regularly watch the local news by serving them a mobile ad. Align with messaging or programming across live or connected TV to reach your voters, and then serve them your ad on their mobile device, their tablet, and their laptop. Now they’ve seen your CTA at least three times.
Or let’s say you’re running for congress, and your CTA is to make a donation. You can deliver a Cover Wrap on TIME magazine, showcasing your message in a highly trusted medium, to thousands of current supporters as well as potential new ones. Pairing this Cover Wrap with a digital AI extension that prompts a video of the candidate explaining their position and includes a one-step “click here to donate” button will undoubtedly increase dollars raised. Cross-channel device and marketing campaigns have proven more impactful on audiences across ALL mediums, so the more touchpoints, the better!
Choosing a Hyperlocal Political Campaign
A lot is going on in our country right now. But amidst all of it, America has not only come together, but it has had to stand side by side with other nations to fight an unexpected worldwide pandemic. The influence of local city officials at both the state and district levels across the country will determine our nation and our world’s future. Running a local political campaign has never been more important. If this year’s elections didn’t strike you as vitally important before Coronavirus changed the world, then now they should appear as glaringly crucial to the future of the America we know and love.