Look How Sophisticated Political Online Ad Campaigns Are Becoming

Quick Hits

This year’s congressional special elections have generated tons of media coverage, most focusing on implications for the 2018 midterms…and for the Trump presidency.

But digital folks should note two important trends that I point out in my most-recent Campaigns & Elections Technology Bytes column. First, as we’ve been covering here for the past couple of months, sophisticated online ad campaigns are becoming normal, with groups experimenting with clever targeting, messaging and media. One example that we haven’t discussed before but that popped up soon before the C&E piece went to press:

…after Greg Gianforte body-slammed a reporter the night before Montanans went to the polls on Election Day, the DCCC, Priorities USA and MoveOn all ran digital ads that included audio from the scene.

Talk about rapid response! Those ads didn’t deliver victory for Democrats, but as I point out in the piece, they and other recent campaigns “foreshadow the targeted and nimble campaigns we can expect to see both sides use from now on.” In part, technology is driving this growing sophistication, with ad vendors competing to offer better targeting and more content options. But I think it also reflects the fact that more political groups are willing to take advantage of them. They have a better idea of what other advertisers are doing, many of them have more experience doing it themselves, and they’re more willing to try techniques that might have seemed risky in the past.

Another long-running trend highlighted in the C&E piece: the power of national small-dollar fundraising for local campaigns. Special elections show the effects clearly, since those campaigns aren’t competing for attention with thousands of state and federal candidates, and I talk about the results so far for both Democrats and Republicans (Gianforte’s campaign claimed that he raised 100k in hours after the body-slam, for example). Note that fundraising driven by Daily Kos — which has been supporting progressive Democratic candidates at least since 2003 — played a big role in establishing Jon Ossoff as a credible candidate in the Georgia special election now headed to a runoff.

For more, check out the full article. And if you see good examples of these trends, send ’em my way.


Written by
Colin Delany
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