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Political Shops Are Embracing Programmatic, While Elections Fuel Local Ad Spend

By Joy Baer October 31, 2014 | 2:47pm

By Joy Baer

With Election Day around the corner, STRATA recently conducted a survey of political advertising ad agencies representing 75% of total political advertising billings. Our survey of the political ad industry yielded some interesting results.

First, political ad shops are utilizing programmatic buying more than their mainstream peers. Eighty-five percent of agencies polled intend to use programmatic for their media buying efforts. This contrasts with our most recent quarterly survey that found 39% of agencies are still undecided about using programmatic to execute their ad purchases.

Eighty-two percent of agencies say their clients will most use Spot TV/Cable to reach political audiences with Spot Radio and Internet/Digital coming in tied for second. The greatest return on investment reported by agencies was for Spot TV (57%) and Online Video (43%).

Our ad buying and selling software has also shown major increases in ad spend in the local markets of tightly contested elections. Colorado, for example, saw ad spend jump 869% when comparing October 2013 ad spend to this October’s numbers. The Centennial State is home to a tight Senate race between Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, and a gubernatorial contest between Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican Bob Beauprez. These local races have helped major local markets in the state see TV ad dollars surge as much as 1121% in Colorado Springs, and 819% in the Denver market. 

You don’t need hawk-like vision to see the tremendous uptick in ad spend in the Hawkeye State. Iowa’s tight Senate race between Republican candidate Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley have helped major market ad spend jump 953%, with local markets like Des Moines earning 1170% in year-over-year ad spend, and Sioux City reaching a 1395% increase.

Major market numbers in other states hosting tight political races, such as Kansas (205%), New Hampshire (319%), and North Carolina (359%) have greatly surpassed the TV ad spend that STRATA found in all other markets (71%).

In addition to TV, social media was also a key component for political advertisers, as 60% of agencies indicated that they plan to use Twitter in client’s political campaigns, 50% for Facebook, and 40% for YouTube and Google+.

Social media and programmatic buying are not just utilized by agencies because they are the hot topics in the ad industry. Social media, especially Twitter, is ideal for real-time marketing. When your opponent releases a negative attack ad, you’ll need to hit back as fast as possible. Both social media and programmatic buying for TV help accomplish that goal.

Overall, political ad budgets are also healthy this year, as 65% of agencies say client budgets have either increased or stayed the same since the last congressional election.

An interesting trend to watch coming out of the November elections, and into the holiday advertising season, will be whether the use of programmatic by the political ad agencies will reverberate into the rest of the industry. As we’ve noted in the past, there are a still a lot of questions that need be resolved before the programmatic is embraced further (like concerns over transparency). While the polls haven’t opened yet, it’s not too early to say that programmatic has won this round of elections. 




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