As the 2024 presidential election looms on the horizon - and the debates start heating up - the buzz around strategic political advertising is cranking up to full volume, too.
This isn't just a moment for the political realm; it's a time for marketers to strategize, pivot, and to make sure their brands remain relevant in the public conversation.
In the thick of election fervor, advertising becomes more than a method of selling products. It's a tool to ingrain your brand into the public narrative, to draw connections with issues that citizens care about, and to show solidarity with causes that define society.
So what are the types of political advertising, and how can you leverage this season to skyrocket your brand to success? Here's what you need to know.
The Marketplace in a Legislative Race
In political advertising, just like any other product or service, understanding the market is key.
Political ads appear everywhere – on television, radio, social media, billboards, and in print. At times, it can seem as though there are just as many types of political advertising options as there are those political yard signs that you see dotting your neighborhood.
Digital platforms, with their sophisticated targeting capabilities, are now at the forefront, offering a way to direct messages with precision to the right demographic. They allow you to echo the sentiments of the masses and to convert eyeballs into potential voters or brand customers, all in real time.
As spending on political ads surpasses billions of dollars - it's expected to surpass $12.32 billion this year - it's critical for marketers to navigate this landscape with some thought-out strategy.
Let's explore some common types of political advertising, how they're used by campaigns, and what lessons can be gleaned based on some lessons from the past.
Outclassing in Out-of-Home Adverts
Before we dive into the types of political advertising online, we need to tip our hat briefly to the non-digital. After all, this is our heritage, and there's still a lot we can glean from these types of political advertising, whether we use them or not.
Out-of-home advertising (OOH) is a significant space for political advertising, allowing campaigns to reach a broader audience.
The strategy in OOH is to be big, to be bold, and to make an impression that sticks.
A case in point is the strategic placement of billboards in areas that are demographically significant, reinforcing messaging that resonates with local communities.
By tapping into the emotional pulse of a community, OOH campaigns can turn passive observation into active engagement.
Think of the 'Hope' posters from years past – a simple image, amplified into an iconic symbol of an entire political movement.
In an age where attention is the most expensive commodity, the strategic placement of physical ads emerges as a poignant nod to classic marketing tactics.
While this year's political climate is likely not where your brand message resides, there is something to be learned from political campaigns that often dominate OOH spaces.
Billboards may be static, but they are far from silent. They speak the language of design, color, and form. In a glance, they must convey a message that lingers. The design of OOH adverts is where art and branding intersect, demanding a visual vocabulary that is both unique and universal.
Success in OOH is not measured in clicks but in conversations. It is the social impact—literal or online—that the advertisement generates. It is the number of times your ad is used as a backdrop to a selfie, the buzz it creates in local social circles, and the way it becomes part of the community's narrative.
Consider that for any non-digital and digital marketing strategies you choose to employ in 2024 and beyond: you need to be where the eyes are.
Making Waves in the Digital Sea: YouTube and Twitter
The political adage "out of sight, out of mind" is a cliff note for political contenders who are rapidly moving into the digital landscape to capture a growing demographic of voters. YouTube and Twitter are at the forefront of this movement, each offering a distinct medium to communicate political messages effectively.
These platforms have become not only essential arenas for political discourse but also strategic tools for ad placement, where the spotlight on an audience can shift in an instant.
YouTube Political Advertising: The Visual Storyteller
YouTube complements the OOH strategy, with the power to tell a story visually and at scale.
In a world where attention is a commodity, YouTube ads must be engaging. This means content must resonate strongly with viewers, either through high production values or with the raw relatability of user-generated clips.
In fact, some of the most powerful political messages are those that come from the people. Incorporating user-generated content in YouTube ads can add an authentic, grassroots appeal.
Remember, YouTube’s robust ad targeting systems allow for pinpoint precision when it comes to reaching key demographics. In the political theater, a well-timed, well-placed ad can sway hearts and minds. Don't underestimate the persuasive power of a well-targeted, unskippable ad just as an audience is about to watch their favorite content.
Twitter Political Advertising: The Conversational Catalyst
In the churning sea of social media, Twitter is the embodiment of the 'what's happening?' stream of consciousness that captures the public’s attention. It's a platform that thrives on conversation and the sharing of immediate thoughts, making it the perfect arena for quick, impactful messages, whether political or not.
It thrives on the conversational nature of its platform. It's not just about what you say, but how you say it.
With Twitter, there's no time to meander. Campaigns must craft messages that are not only concise but also have the potential to resonate deeply and rapidly.
The Power of Search: The Google Political Advertising Role
Google search is a window into the collective consciousness, especially during election times. In the multiplicity of voices, your brand needs to appear as an authoritative and relevant source.
SEO plays a significant role here, ensuring that when issues are searched for, your brand is among the top results.
Google Ads allows you to bid on keywords, making sure they are visible at the exact moment an individual is seeking that information.
It's not just about advertising; it's about being present when the customers need it the most, in those crucial moments of indecision.
Targeted Advertising Across All Types of Political Advertising
Microtargeting is the scalpel in the political marketing toolbox. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer unprecedented access to the lives and likes of their users.
By using data analytics, ads can be tailored to be personal, evocative, and, most importantly, convincing.
Personalization is about crafting a narrative that aligns with the individual choices and ideological leanings of the voter. It's a method that values the voter as a person, not just a number, and successful campaigns understand that every single vote counts.
An example? Patagonia. Amid the 2020 U.S. presidential race, Patagonia doubled down on its commitment to the planet, releasing campaigns like "Buy Less, Demand More" and even closing its stores on Election Day to encourage voter turnout.
By aligning itself with a cause that resonated with its customer base, Patagonia did more than just sell products; it asserted a brand identity that transcended typical consumerist messaging. The key takeaway was Patagonia's organic alignment with eco-conscious consumers, evidencing that authenticity in messaging can cut through the election buzz.
Rotating and Reinforcing on All Mediums
The key to a resilient and robust political ad campaign is diversification. You need to explore a wide variety of types of poltiical advertising strategies and mediums.
Relying on a single medium is like putting all your eggs in one basket - it may work out, but it's far more risky than a well-spread portfolio. Political advertising must rotate and reinforce on all available mediums, maximizing exposure without overwhelming the audience.
When media campaigns consistently deliver a message across different platforms, it reinforces their credibility and builds brand recognition.
The lesson here is clear: be where the audience is, and be there often, but don't repeat to the point of becoming white noise. Strategic rotation keeps the message fresh and memorable.
Case Studies in Digital Dominance
Innovation in creative direction can help a brand break through the election noise.
Coca-Cola's "Together Is Beautiful" campaign during the 2016 election cycle is a stirring example of creativity done right. The campaign featured a commercial showcasing the diversity of the American populace, set to the backdrop of an unconventional rendition of "America the Beautiful," sung in multiple languages.
This campaign exemplified how a brand can foster unity and inclusion, values often yearned for during divisive elections. By championing diversity and celebrating the shared experiences that unite people, Coca-Cola effectively amplified its brand message amidst the political clamor.
Similarly, harnessing the power of influencers and user-generated content (UGC) can provide brands with authentic and relatable content that consumers crave.
Nike's "Dream Crazy" campaign, which featured athletes sharing their awe-worthy accomplishments, is a testament to the effectiveness of influencer and UGC partnerships.
During the 2020 electoral season, Nike's campaign cut through the political banter by focusing on the universal human value of aspiration.
By showcasing real people achieving extraordinary goals, Nike inspired its audience, leveraging the authenticity and trust that comes with real-life endorsements. This approach not only circumvented the political conversation but also aligned with the public's desire for positive, uplifting content.
Your Brand, The Ballot
Election season is both a challenge and an opportunity for marketers. The demand for ad space may soar, but so too does the potential for visibility and influence.
By understanding the vast array of advertising options and the lessons from successful campaigns, you can navigate the 2024 presidential election season with confidence and purpose.
Remember, it's not just about the candidates on the stage. It's about the brands that speak their language, that echo their sentiments, and that contribute to the fabric of a nation in dialogue.
By aligning your marketing strategy with the critical discourse of the day, you make sure your brand isn't just a passive observer of history – it's an active participant in shaping it.
Authored by Adam Ortman, Founder & President