Political Campaign Ads: Increasing Your Reach

by The Campaign Workshop

Girl hitting a pinata

Political Campaign Ads and Your Campaign Strategy

When planning your overall campaign strategy, political campaign ads play an important role, however they are not without their issues. One of the biggest problems with digital campaigns is that they are not tied closely enough to your overall campaign strategy. Digital tools are an important vehicle to help you reach your overall political goals and should be thought of as such.

What are advocacy campaigns doing right when it comes to online engagement that political campaigns can learn from? 

Let’s say you are running an advocacy campaign to try and have a stop sign installed at an intersection in your town. Your ultimate strategic goal is to get the stop sign installed, but to get there you need the community involved so you can get your city council to take action. So, you may show up at some community meetings, stand outside the local library or grocery store and ask people to sign a petition. In addition, you can create a petition online and post it to various local Facebook and Twitter pages to reach more people. If you have a bit of a budget, you can run digital ads that allow people to click on the ad and send an email directly to their city council member.

The same rings true for political campaigns. When someone decides they are going to run for office, they may hire a campaign manager and design yard signs and buttons to let people know they are the right person for the job. If they want to be successful, they will also produce a website that can be the online face of their campaign. When community members hear this person is running for office, often the first thing they do is Google them, so having a digital presence is crucial (and having one you are comfortable presenting to the world is even more important).

Why is it important to use political campaign ads as a part of your campaign strategy? 

Political campaign ads shouldn’t be thought of as separate communications campaigns in and of themselves, but rather an important part of your larger campaign. Much as field, mail, volunteers and communication strategies are thought of. When you can incorporate digital into your overall goals, you will be able to get the most out of the tools available to you.

Voters are people (I know, obvious) and they get their information from different places. They read different newspapers and magazines - both on and offline. They talk with different people every day. And, though hard to believe, they think about lots of things besides your campaign.

To talk with the voters you need to win your election, an effective campaign will use a variety of communication mediums – digital advertising, direct mail, field, print, radio and television advertising. Your campaign budget, district size, media markets and a few other factors will determine the best mix for your campaign. But, to win, it will be a mix.

Are political campaign ads right for all campaigns, no matter the size?

Regardless of the size of your campaign, political campaign ads should be in your communications mix. Way back in 2004, a governor from Vermont used digital advertising to reinvent how campaigns do fundraising by buying blanket ads in large progressive websites. Back then, the technology for hosting and targeting advertising was fairly limited. Broadband connections were just starting, and many voters still relied on dial-up to connections to the Internet. So, most campaigns stuck with fairly static ads that loaded quickly and targeted them mostly by buying space on websites where potential voters went for information.

Fast forward to present day and campaigns across the country are pushing digital advertising out to all sorts of unimaginable devices. When making a digital advertising buy now you can look at static ads, animated ads, and video ads that can be shown on a mobile device or through a streaming service onto your TV. Just like TV ads, but with the targeting benefits of digital ads. 

Political campaign ads are part of an ever-changing medium, and a critical one for campaigns of any size. At The Campaign Workshop we are constantly talking, reading and testing the latest ways to produce, distribute, and target digital advertising, even on tight budgets. Check out our guide for running your political campaign advertising on a tight budget.