Once upon a time, presidential campaigning was simple in terms of advertising. In order to communicate their platform and views on various issues and gain the vote of the public, candidates would rely on more traditional means of marketing. This included posters, informational leaflets, live speaking events, and with the introduction of the television as an American household staple, televised debates. When digital marketing was introduced to campaigning, election marketing changed to fit the wants and needs of an increasingly technologically aware public. While we could see right away the effects of digital media on the election process, just how far does this influence go?
America’s first introduction to the profound effects of digital marketing on election campaigning came with the 2008 presidential elections. During that election, we saw direct tangible correlations between digital campaign spending and viewer response with the dichotomous approaches of Obama on the one hand, with $47M spending, and Romney on the other hand, with $4.7M campaign spending. During that time, social media was at its peak for campaign marketing, serving as a platform to reach out to the increasingly large demographic of social media users.
While social media still plays a significant role in campaign marketing for the current 2016 elections, digital marketing has evolved greatly to include more sophisticated approaches to viewer and voter response. Of the $11 million projected spend during this election cycle, approximately 10% of that budget is projected for digital advertising alone, evidencing an all-time high for election focus on digital media.
Social media still plays a big role in branding for candidates, whom have shown a heavy presence on networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even Snapchat to disseminate content and gain support. This has opened doors for candidates to target voters directly rather than micro-target demographic groups by way of advertising targeted to specific niche issues. Even the platforms themselves have opened up new marketing tools for candidates, such as Facebook, for instance, which, new to this election cycle, made it possible for candidates to upload voter databases and link registered voter emails to specific Facebook user accounts so that candidates can communicate with those voters directly via the social platform.
While social media still has a presence, however, there is a notable decrease in focus on social media by candidates than in last election. Now, in addition to social media, candidates are placing heavy focus on more traditional display advertising, namely native ads. Native advertising is paid content made to blend in effectively on websites. It is seen as a good way by which to cut through the clutter of digital media and reach a larger demographic of people in a non-obtrusive way. The increased benefit of native advertising and other display advertising for the election campaign marketing is, above all, the trackability of these methods and the programmatic software developed to distribute these advertisements with ease. By creating interactive display advertisements with integration of retargeting links and landing page campaigns, candidates can track the online response of their voters. In some cases, this even means insight into population areas with large support through location tracking.
The increased spending on digital media during the 2016 elections evidences the tangible results and effectiveness of digital media marketing. Whether we see the election end with a Clinton or a Trump victory, we will be able to utilize data on their digital marketing campaigns and how they correlated to the ultimate victor. With the speedy growth of the digital marketing world, we can’t wait to see what all of these developments will bring to the table during the 2020 elections!