Cheap Digital Political Campaign Ads
What Are the Least Expensive Options to Run Political Campaign Ads Online?
Not every political campaign has a large budget for advertising. Digital advertising is generally the most cost-effective paid media strategy, especially if you use self-serve platforms. Depending on the size of your race and the geographic makeup of your district, you can run still run an effective digital program without breaking the bank.
Self-serve platforms let you run ads without having to pay a fee upfront or connect with a representative. Instead, you create an account and then create and serve ads directly on that website or network. The most common platforms you might run a self-serve digital political campaign on are below:
- Google Ads/YouTube
Your campaign should have Facebook/Instagram and Twitter pages, so those might be good places to start. You can do something as simple as boosting a post on Facebook, but we would generally recommend that you run ads through the ad platforms, so you have more access to targeting options and control over the setup of your buy.
Facebook, Twitter, and Google all have a ton of options for targeting. A good place to start is by setting geographic parameters on the area you want your ads to run in. Generally speaking, these platforms give you the option to target by state, city, or zip. You may also be able to drop a pin and create a radius around a location. Since the default setting on these platforms tends to be nationwide, you definitely need to make sure you’ve set your ads to run in an area where people can actually vote for you.
You can also use demographic targeting to run ads to a specific gender or age range, which you might use to target likely voters or people you think you can persuade. On Facebook and Google, you also have the option to target people by their political leanings (liberal vs. conservative). While Twitter doesn’t have that level of political data available yet, you can target people who are interested in government, news, and politics. Twitter also lets you target people who are similar to people who follow a list of handles of your choosing.
Digital ad budgets can vary a lot for political campaigns. In small, rural districts you can get away with a much lower budget than you can in a large, densely populated area. The best thing about using a self-serve platform is that you can set your budget to whatever you would like it to be, and there are no minimum spend requirements. That said, if you set it too high you may not spend it in full by Election Day and if you set it too low you might not really get your message out. You can use the audience prediction tools in self-serve platforms to see if it looks like you have too many people for your budget or not enough. As a general rule, everyone in your audience should see your ads more than once but ideally not so often that they get tired of them.
If you’re trying to figure out how long your ads should run, it’s often better to run a shorter campaign with a higher volume of ads closer to Election Day than it is to run a longer program at a low volume. On the low end, a digital political campaign might last one to two weeks. Running ads for less than a week can be dicey. It can take a few days for the ads to gain scale and start serving at a higher volume. You’ll also want to give the platform a few days for machine learning to kick in so it can serve your ads more efficiently. Additionally, make sure you take into account important dates like early voting and set your ads to end when polls close, so you aren’t wasting your money.
Getting Your Ads Approved
Gone are the days before 2016 when you could run political campaign ads on networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Google without regulated disclaimers and verifications. Now, you need to plan a few weeks ahead of running your ads to make sure you go through all of the necessary steps to run political ads. All of the self-serve platforms require you to prove that your ads are coming from people or organizations based in the US before you can serve ads in any US election. The process varies by platform but in some instances, you will need to wait for a letter to come to your US address via USPS, which can take 7–10 business days. If you want a deeper dive on getting your accounts approved to run political ads you can check out my blog on the subject.
Once your accounts are verified, your ads also have to be approved. This process generally takes around 24 hours. You’ll want to read the specs and guidelines for each platform and ad type carefully to make sure your ads pass inspection the first time. Some common things to look out for are making sure that your ads are sized correctly, your disclaimers have been approved, and you meet creative requirements—for example, Facebook has restrictions on how much text your image can have on it.
If you’re going to run ads on self-serve platforms, you can do so without spending a ton of money, but it is a time commitment to learn how to use them and to make sure your ads are running correctly. If you have the resources to do so, hiring a someone to run the ads for you can free you up to focus on other critical aspects of your campaign. Reach out to us if you’re looking for someone to help you run your ads here. You can also take a look at our nine political campaign tips for more campaign insights.