The Rise of Political Video Advertising

Political advertisers continue to debate whether the web works to persuade voters. But even the biggest spending campaigns are giving it a try. The campaigns of Michele Bachmann and Barack Obama – to name a couple – have begun to recognize the value of video for persuasion as well as Get-Out-The-Vote efforts. Not only can they use it to sway voters through emotive sound and imagery, they can combine influential messages with immediate calls to action, interactivity, and extend the reach of their television spots.

Use of online video advertising already is growing by leaps and bounds among corporate brands. The Interactive Advertising Bureau reported that digital video ad spending rose more than 42 percent to $891 million in the first six months of this year; that momentum should continue as people increase video consumption online, on their phones, and on tablet devices.

GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann was among the earliest online video advertisers in the 2012 cycle: Her campaign ran pre-roll video ads to help push supporters to the Iowa Straw Poll. She won.

In September, the Democratic National Committee ran expandable video ads on in support of the President’s job-creation plan.The ads included a video featuring an edited version of the speech he gave before Congress about the proposal and listed several bullet points detailing benefits of the plan.

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Online video advertising as a component of electoral and advocacy campaigns gained steam during the 2010 midterms, when candidates like Wisconsin Democrat Tom Barrett and Ohio Republican John Kasich, and Washington state tax advocacy group “Defeat 1098” ran in-banner and pre-roll video ads.

At the time, digital consulting firm Targeted Victory said its political clients had spent between 65 and 75 percent of their 2010 online budgets on video ads, and some campaigns spent as much as 85 percent of their online budgets on them.

“If done right, an online video ad buy is similar to a cable buy – and you have a lot more information about your impressions than cable,” said Josh Koster, partner at Democratic digital consulting firm Chong and Koster.

While there are several reasons political campaigns are buying more video advertising, data is a big one. Though few if any digital media consultants would suggest replacing TV advertising with video advertising, when it comes to message testing and tracking – and just plain understanding audience response – video ads have TV beat.

“Now we’re gaining information rather than just pushing out a TV message,” explained JB Britten, digital media director at Smart Media Group, who handled online ads for Meg Whitman’s 2010 California Gubernatorial bid. Whitman’s camp spent $3 million on digital ads including video advertising.

In many cases, political advertisers see buying video ads as a way to extend television buys, particularly when there are limited GRPs available in an important market, or to reach elusive voter demographics who spend little time watching live TV.

Indeed, television advertising is integral to what’s taking place in online video. As election day nears, more money flows towards online video ads, since desirable TV inventory runs out, particularly in areas where several election races are taking place. Political advertisers move their television ads online, streaming them before and during video content on YouTube, through ad networks, on news sites, and inside banner ads.

“Buying video advertising should be thought of as if you’re buying a few extra GRPs with your Internet ad,” said Eli Kaplan, founding partner at Rising Tide Interactive, a Democratic digital media strategy firm.

As media consumption patterns shift, TV could lose its place as the main forum for persuasive political ads. According to a September 2011 bipartisan study, 31 percent of all likely voters don’t watch live TV. Instead, they watch programs on DVR during which they may skip through commercial breaks, or they watch TV programming online or in mobile environments.

The same is true of likely voters in important battleground states and demographic groups, said the study. The research was conducted by video ad firm Say Media and co-authored by Republican digital agency Targeted Victory and Democratic digital agency Chong and Koster, along with pollsters on both sides of the aisle. In Florida, 28 percent of likely voters surveyed said they don’t watch live television. And in the state of Ohio, 38 percent of likely voters aren’t consuming live TV.

By no means is political television advertising going away, but as video consumption accelerates, and audiences shift viewing habits, we can expect more political ad dollars to flow towards digital video.

Learn more about political video advertising in ClickZ’s Political Video Advertising 201, a free, new resource jam packed with insights from the top digital political experts using online video ads today. You’ll find out why political advertisers are using video, get tips, learn key video ad terms, and more. Download ClickZ’s FREE Political Video Advertising 201 resource!

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