Every movement begins with a moment.

The 2016 Presidential Campaign’s Most Valuable Asset: Your Attention

Posted 23 September 2015 9:00 AM by Lindsay Howard @MoxieUSA, @GeekLindsay

For me, September typically involves reveling in fall colors, ripe apples and football. But this year, these seasonal celebrities are losing the spotlight to my new favorite activity: tuning into the reality TV drama of the 2016 presidential race. And I’m not alone in this fascination.

From wondering whether "anchor babies" is a reference to obesity or immigration to debating the significance of email-gate to deciding "Is it fake?" (Donald Trump's hair, of course), we just can't seem to get enough. And this is exactly what the candidates hope for. In an era of exponentially increasing options (should I stream “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” or the latest episode of "Orphan Black"?) across multiple devices, our attention is more valuable than ever.

As millennials age up during this presidential voting cycle, we're more likely to vote and impact election results. And as older constituents flock to social networks, there's a larger audience to be reached. The candidates need to capture our eyeballs and, better yet, trigger an emotional response so that we care enough to tune in. Even if that requires a bit of controversial press to get us there.

Our attention, however, comes at a cost — ad dollars, that is. This season, we'll see revolutionary, data-driven strategies to better target the most valuable segments. But how does it work? The maturity of advertising effectiveness in the 2016 presidential campaign is a two-part equation.

First, the data collected on voters has matured. While polling data has always been public record, candidates did not have the technological capacity to capture or use the data for meaningful outcomes. The advancement of computing power to handle big data — partnered with talented individuals to leverage it — means that we'll see this information used in more powerful ways moving forward. 

Second, the social media prowess of campaign strategies has matured significantly. In 2012, campaign strategists used some of the most avant-garde techniques to pinpoint their audience, including retargeting that’s based on site visits and predictive profiling. In 2014, Obama leveraged digital word of mouth by partnering with social media influencers like Zach Galifianakis to promote healthcare enrollment. 

Looking forward, Facebook offers robust psychographic personas (e.g., Hispanic) broken down into interest affinities, language and behaviors. Candidates can target users on Twitter, Facebook and Pandora based on their likely political affiliation. Twitter has targeting by postal code. Candidates can target depending on how constituents have interacted with emails sent to them. They can personalize content based on the issues that resonate most with a persona. And they can make their dollars go farther with real-time bidding and automation at scale. 

All of these factors lead to more relevant, timely messaging about the issues constituents are more likely to care about. 

In fact, you may have already seen the political ads below for the 2016 campaign cycle. Hillary Clinton seems to be the only one to date who’s activated social channels (whether it’s targeting us on Instagram or following us on Pinterest). Even if that is the case, this is only the beginning of what we’ll see over the next 14 months. 


Have you seen political ads targeted to you? Send me a screenshot at @GeekLindsay.


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