By William Merchan, Head of Verity™ at GumGum
The United States political climate is one of vast division and polarization, and decades of legal precedent have been overturned in the matter of days from the Supreme Court. All in the middle of 2022—a key midterm campaign year. Major campaigns like gubernatorial, Congressional, and Presidential races spend tens of millions of dollars on political ads, and every two years political ad spending ramps up as term limits end and candidates begin campaigning. So far, 2022 U.S. Senate midterm races alone have spent over half a billion dollars on campaign ad spending across TV, radio, and digital. But how successful are these ad dollars in reaching the right groups of potential voters to create real impact? In order to make sure political campaigns are reaching voters when they are in the right mindset, they must invest in innovative and new technologies and platforms, and lean into meeting people where they are, like leveraging sophisticated contextual targeting.
The Power of Contextual
What is contextual? Well, contextual targeting is powered by deep learning artificial intelligence and unlike behavioral ad targeting, it doesn’t require the exploitation of third-party cookies and personal data to place relevant ads. But not all contextual is created the same, and in order to be the most effective at targeting the right potential voters, political campaigns will need to use advanced contextual platforms that leverage several types of deep learning in artificial intelligence that goes beyond reading a webpage or video’s metadata—something most contextual platforms are limited to.
Now if you’re working on a political campaign and are reading this, stick with me because at the end of the day it’s important to remember that the most important part for advertisers and political campaigners alike is reaching voters in the right mindset: the individuals who are most likely to want to engage with your product, service, or in this case, the people who are most likely to be swayed to vote for your specific candidate. For political campaigns to reach swayable voters, or the “movable middle,” they’ll need to look beyond traditional linear TV advertising and invest in intelligent contextual solutions like GumGum’s accredited proprietary contextual targeting technology Verity™. Verity™ is the only contextual platform that uses both natural language processing (NLP) and computer vision (CV), two types of deep learning in artificial intelligence, to analyze a webpage’s text, audio, video, and images in milliseconds to place ads that make sense to the consumer at that exact moment in time. Not only does this ensure that the ad is relevant to the consumer, but it also ensures that it meets the consumer in the moment an ad may be most impressionable to them.
In research conducted with MAGNA Media Trials, we found that mindset plays the biggest role in driving consumer action and that contextual is 47% more effective at reaching the right people at the right time—with 60% of respondents saying contextual ads were “something I was open to at the time” (60%!). For example, let’s say a voter is reading about inflation in their state on a statewide news website. Because they’re already engaging with content about inflation, it’s more likely that they’ll be in a mindset to engage with a candidate’s ad addressing inflation at that moment. Or maybe a parent is looking for baby formula online for their baby, they’ll likely be more open to engaging with a candidate’s ad that addresses the shortage and has solutions. In both scenarios, the campaign has successfully reached the right audience at the right time to drive action using context.
Campaigns Are Missing out by Not Experimenting With New Formats Like CTV
But campaigns aren’t limited to linear TV, online publishers, or brands to reach voters in today’s digital advertising ecosystem because campaigns can also reach voters through channels like CTV and in-game (remember when President Obama was the first presidential candidate to buy in-game ads in the 2008 election?). That’s not to say that advertisers don’t have challenges on CTV because they do, but there are innovative and creative solutions to challenges like attention deficit and ad fatigue.
In another study with MAGNA, we tested out overlay ads on CTV as an alternative to traditional video ads used on linear TV. In the study, half of the CTV users reported almost always avoiding traditional video ads on CTV, especially as video ad frequency continues to increase (something we found that Gen Z, an extremely influential demographic for political campaigns, is keenly aware of). Overlay ads, especially contextually placed overlay ads, performed especially well with only 17% of viewers thinking overlay ads were “distracting.” Overlays were 4x more memorable than video ads, drove 72% more in savings for advertisers, and have a shorter production time and lower cost. And there isn’t just one singular overlay format—you can have an ad placed at the corner of the screen, text across the bottom of the screen (think the banners at the bottom of your screen when watching the news), or even a noniterruptive, animated video at the bottom of your screen making the creative ad opportunity endless. Is this not a political campaign’s advertising dream? A highly effective, impactful, creative, and cost-efficient way to reach voters in contextually relevant and brand safe environments.
The point is, political campaigns have to get comfortable with emerging and tested technologies like contextual, CTV, and in-game, and seek innovative and sophisticated solutions to reach the right voters. And down the line, as technology becomes more immersive through experiences like in-game and the metaverse, political campaigns have to be willing to take digital advertising risks. No, it probably wouldn’t make sense to serve a political ad on Elden Ring, but the future of digital advertising is exciting and bright, and political campaigns must use context to meet voters where they are, and at the right moment, to be most effective. And that just might mean meeting a potential voter in the metaverse.