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POV: Paid Media Advertising During the Election Season

Paid Media / 10.12.2020

Red Door /

Current situation

As we near the 2020 U.S. election, candidates and super PACs have ramped up advertising spend to tremendous levels. While political spending in 2018 came in at over $2 billion (roughly 2%) of total digital ad spending in the U.S., this year’s political digital ad spend is projected to reach nearly $3 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. As a result, we expect to see impacts across all channels as political advertisers increase their advertising spends, leading to an overall surge in competition and advertising costs.

Expected impact

  • Peak competition: Competition increases significantly as political ads are added to the mix, not just with an aggressive strategy but with aggressive budgets. We might also start to see more aggressive strategies from regular competitors as everyone is competing for the same placements.

  • Increase in costs: In 2016 candidates spent $1.4 billion on online political ads. In the 2016 election, one candidate primarily utilized Facebook Ads to target their audiences with personalized political advertisements, but we have already seen and expect continued broad usage of social platforms in 2020. We can expect to see an increase in CPC’s and CPM’s as candidates will be spending competitively for large pools of individuals.

  • Heightened ad guidelines: Keep up with the changes in regulations on each platform and how your content is performing with your audience. Maintain a close eye on potential shifts in the algorithms as you evaluate performance. All platforms will be increasingly active and proactive with ad disapprovals for any potential issues as well.

  • Distrust of social media ads: Due to the broad use of social media for political campaigns in 2016, we we now have a more cautious audience. Smaller and less known brands might have to work harder to build trust with users during this time.

Timeframe

Facebook announced that from October 27, 2020 at 12:01am PST to November 3, 2020 at 11:59 pm PST advertisers in the United States running ads related to social issues, elections, or politics will not be able to create and run new ads. We should expect to see previously created ads running fully during this time, along with the expected high competition.

Recommendations

Red Door recommends advertising across all platforms with caution during the week of October 26 through November 2, as those are the days in which the majority of political ads will be running. During this time, the mindshare of the majority of audiences in the United States will be on the election. These are our channel-specific recommendations:

Paid Search:

  • Using negative keywords: Monitor search query results and add negative keywords around elections, presidential candidates, and voting. Be careful to check on trending political topics that are related to your business or services. You do not want to pay for clicks related to these themes.

  • Check for audiences that could overlap: Ensure that the in-market, affinity, and custom audiences being utilized are not overlapping with what political campaigns may be targeting. Depending on how strong the competition is and if cost-per-clicks rise drastically some of those audiences should be turned off during the election period and turned back on after.

  • Keep geographic targeting in mind: Be mindful of any specific locations that might see a higher impact or are being more aggressively targeted by political spend (swing states or counties). These are locations that may need to be reviewed more often to gauge the impact on spend and costs.

    • Google Trends has a page dedicated to the US Elections in Search 2020, here we’re able to see which states are searching the most for political-related phrases. This tool can be used to identify which states need to be monitored during election week.
       

Paid Social:

  • Prepare: Strategic ad placement is something to consider during the election season. Facebook Business Manager does not allow ads related to social issues, elections, or politics to advertise on certain placements, which offers an opportunity to prepare content for ads specifically to show on those placements where political ads are banned.

    • Placements unavailable to political advertisements: Messenger, WhatsApp, Right Hand Column, Marketplace, Search, Facebook Stories, Instant Articles, Suggested Videos, Watch Feed, Audience Network, and In-Stream Video (desktop).

  • Follow best practices: Increased competition means marketers need to fight for every space where their ad might appear. To be competitive and cost-effective it is important to follow best practices and ensure you are implementing a strategy you know works for your brand.

  • Crowded mindshare: Remember that your target consumer might look exactly like that undecided voter for political campaigns, that potential car buyer, that potential clothing purchaser, etc. and you will be sharing the same available impressions and ad space with those advertisers. It is important to keep an eye on all CPM and platform costs as well as remaining mindful of your creative and messaging to make sure that it is showing care or response to current events as appropriate.

  • Bid management: If CPM, CPC, or CPA start to increase significantly due to the increase of competition during election season, consider a bidding strategy that allows you to set limits for how much you are willing to spend for customer action.

  • Budget management: Identify where your budget is being spent, what placements are costing more due to political competition and, consider shifting budget to help offset rising costs.

  • Partner with trusted influencers: Building trust can be difficult during election season, as we are advertising to very cautious users. Partnering with a trusted influencer can help build that trust in a more direct way where users are likely seeking an escape from the political space dominating their feeds.

  • Keep geographic targeting in mind: Be mindful of any specific locations that might see a higher impact or are being more aggressively targeted by political ad spend (swing states or counties). These are locations that may need to be reviewed more often to gauge the impact on costs and may require an alternate strategy.

  • Be cognizant of user sentiment & brand receptiveness: This is a time of heightened emotion and crucial decision making. We should be aware of verbiage that may not be well received as well as sensitive to topics being discussed (i.e. Healthcare and Employment Wages).

Display/Video:

  • Know where your brand shows up: Make sure you know where your ad spend appears and that you are not accidentally showing ads in outlets that contradict your company values.

  • Negative placements: Audit placements and make sure you are implementing negative placements for outlets where you do not want your ads to show.

  • Negative keywords and topics: Adding negative keywords and topics to your display campaigns adds another level of control. This will prevent your ad from showing for irrelevant audiences or in the wrong outlets.

  • Keep geographic targeting in mind: Be mindful of any specific locations that might see a higher impact or are being more aggressively targeted by political spend (swing states or counties). These are locations that may need to be reviewed more often to gauge the impact on costs and may need an alternate strategy.

Interested in learning more about our Paid Media services? We’re always here to help! Contact us today.

More Information

Google Transparency Report
American Bar – Voting in 2020
Facebook – Ads About Social Issues, Elections or Politics

 

Paid Media,Insights