Political Campaign Ads: How to Get the Most Out of Digital Advertising

by The Campaign Workshop

Woman smiling at phone - Political Campaign Ads

Political Campaign Ads: Tips To Get More From Your Advertising Spend

Political campaign ads are part of every election cycle and we’re rounding up some tips on how to get the most for your campaign. In this post, we’re focusing on digital ads. Digital ads tend to be more cost-effective than TV, so you can reach a wider audience with a smaller budget. Where you run your ads and on what platforms is determined by your budget, target audience and the size of your race.

Social Media

Social media ads are a must for any digital political campaign. There are no minimum spends to run ads, they tend to be less expensive than other platforms, and their built-in social pressure can help amplify your message. You’ll want to have a robust plan for organic and paid content through your social media networks to reach both your base and potential voters. This means you should be posting regularly from your accounts as well as running paid ads.

Facebook/Instagram -  Still the biggest social media platform. They should be a part of any candidate campaign. Facebook is generally a great place to amplify your message within people’s existing social networks. For example, you could use Facebook to serve ads to people who are likely to be your supporters to make sure they turn out to vote. 

You can run both static and video ads on social media, and you should plan to do both. Short videos shot from a smartphone can perform better on social media as they seem more authentic, so don’t worry if you don’t have the budget for traditional video production.

Of course, we can’t mention social media without acknowledging the changes to regulations for political campaigns. While Facebook still allows political and advocacy organizations to advertise on its platform, verification requirements are constantly being updated and it’s important to keep an eye out for what is available before you start running any ads. 


Programmatic ads are a tried-and-true method and integrated into most political campaign ads. Instead of running ads on specific websites in the hopes that your potential voters will visit those sites and see your ads, programmatic ads are run across a wide network of websites. They reach your target audience wherever they surf the web. Because you’re running ads on thousands of sites, you have the best chance of reaching the widest range of people in your target audience.  You also have the most room to scale your budget up or down. One example of a programmatic network you’re likely already aware of is Google AdWords (although please note, Google has released new targeting restrictions for political campaign ads).

You can run both static and video ads on programmatic networks. If you have the budget and you’re running for a high-level office, you should look into running high-impact ads. These ads typically appear at the top of a page and tend to be larger ad units that may expand or play an animation. These ads are more expensive, but they can make more of an impact than standard ads that viewers may not see.

Local News

We often like to run our client’s political campaign ads on local news sites. We do this because people that visit these sites are already primed to read about local elections. Local news can also be seen as trusted sources, so having your ads on their sites can lend some implied credibility to your campaign. Most local news sites have standard pricing for digital ads based on the content they run with and the length of time you plan to run them, but make sure you call the publication and confirm that those prices are for political ads. Many sites charge a premium to run political ads and you don’t want to be surprised by a higher price than you were expecting.

Search Ads

Another cost-effective option for all campaigns is Google search ads. They’re a good way to catch people when they’re looking up information about you or your race, so make sure to tailor your keywords accordingly. In the last 2 weeks or so before the campaign, you could run search ads that include your name, the office you’re running for, and when Election Day is. If you have a voter guide on your website, you can link your ads there to help people make a plan to vote. This could be especially helpful for a down ballot race where people are less likely to have made a decision on who to vote for and name recognition is crucial.

Spec Ads

One last tip to help stretch your political campaign ads budget is to create spec ads ahead of time. 

Spec concepts are a tool that many campaigns are using more frequently to prepare for the known and the unknown. For example, when Trump announced Kavanaugh as his Supreme Court pick, numerous progressive advocacy groups prepared spec concepts ahead of the announcement that featured everyone on his short list. This ensured that ads were ready to launch the second that the chosen nominee was announced.

This is a great practice for campaigns, especially in a primary. Spec concepts will get your digital campaigns up and running faster. Taking the time to create concepts for multiple candidates is worth the extra effort. When your ads are running ahead of your competition, your message will be shown to voters without any distractions, which just may give you an edge on Election Day. 

All campaigns need to run on a tight budget and using digital for your political campaign ads can help you stay within yours. You can check out more ways you can save money with digital ads here