As the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign season heats up, digital advertising spending looks likely to increase because of increased spending by super PACs, those groups that can raise and spend unlimited funds on behalf of political candidates. Watch for the campaigns to become more targeted as we move beyond primary season.
I caught up with Antti Pasila, chief strategy officer and co-founder of Kiosked, a global ad automation company, who explained both why and how digital ad spending will increase.
"Super PACs tend to spend big later on in a campaign, so we can expect a significant increase in ad spend once we move beyond the primaries. So far, candidate's advertising strategies have been largely focused on television ads in efforts to reach the general population," Pasila said.
"TV is an easy way to reach the masses," he said.
However, many experts say that broadcasting political messages creates a lot of ad waste. The two major parties will use about half their budgets on viewers who have little or no interest in their messages.
"But fast forward three, four months, and we will see a much bigger push into digital advertising because one can micro-target potential supporters with far greater accuracy. The additional ad dollars provided by the super PACs will help to supplement the television ads with hyper-targeted digital ads that will ultimately provide a far better [return on investment] for campaigners," Pasila said.
"With the larger ad budgets available, expect to see a surge in personalized online ads, and don't be surprised to see as many political ads in your social feeds as you do on TV," he said.
Getting undecided voters on board can, of course, mean the difference between winning and losing the race. Because it is easier to identify undecided voters later in the process, significant money will be spent at the last minute.
Through analyzing users' interests, the content they share and the ads on which they click, digital experts at the campaigns can efficiently target and determine people's party inclinations. This allows for spending relevant ad dollars according to political views.
Much of this is accomplished through the variety of ad automation platforms available.
"Since their ad dollars are going further than ever before, you can expect to see a far greater volume [and more personalized] political ads than there has been for any previous election. These programmatic platforms allow advertising to move from broadcasting to narrow-casting, yet do it with the same scale," Pasila said.
But where things become particularly interesting, as it pertains to ad sales, is when a candidate drops out.
"This year, we have seen a greater number of presidential primary candidates and a longer primary cycle than usual. As the field narrows and candidate's positions become more entrenched, the remaining candidates will look to pinpoint their messages to specific audiences using digital ads," Pasila said.
"So, in terms of ad budget, if a big player such as [Donald] Trump hypothetically drops out, the money raised they raised will not be spent," Pasila said.
"However, the parties that own the super PACs and fundraising organizations will end up supporting the alternative candidate," he said. "In the end, the parties will spend their money regardless of who is running or who they are backing, and that's a win for the digital platforms no matter who makes it to the White House."
This article is commentary by an independent contributor.