Online advertising has become an authoritative auxiliary to TV commercials. Although the lion’s share of political advertising finances are spent on such adverts, with each subsequent election cycle a larger portion is spent online.
Online advertising makes it possible to reach users who do not watch TV. It also enables a political advertiser to serve response ads that are directly actionable within the online platform, for instance asking users visiting a candidate’s site to sign up for an email list or to follow a candidate on Twitter. Tracking online advertising is also much more rigorous than TV ads. Measurable viewer engagement enables optimising based on past performance.
However, one of the most potent gains of online ads is the ability to target with astonishing precision. Online advertising is incisive, making it unparalleled media.
Although TV may be more effective for pushing a big message, based on ‘per usage,’ the Internet is more powerful. At least four primary methods for audience targeting online can be used in pre-election campaigns, including demographic targeting, geographic targeting, behavioral targeting and interest-based targeting.
In geographic targeting, display ads can be targeted to people in specific regions, towns or cities. A number of earned media platforms such as Facebook, Twittter and Pandora permit geographic targeting, making it a cheap form of audience targeting online. Demographic targeting enables the political advertiser to serve ads to very specific groups, for instance, college educated men aged between 25 and 34 years. Interest-based targeting on the other hand refers to showing ads on pages with relevant content the targeted audience could pique interest in.
Based on the goals of the political campaign, any of the three can be combined for optimised specificity. For instance, an ad might be targeting fathers aged between 28 and 54 years who live in Nairobi, and who frequent specific websites. Although this kind of precision may greatly hone a political message to a specific group, the campaigner may want to be careful to avoid limiting his reach.
In behavioral targeting, users are targeted based on past actions. A particular effective form of this type of targeting is retargeting, described as the practice of showing ads to online users who have previously visited a certain political website. Email retargeting, which applies similar core technology as site retargeting allows the campaign advertiser to retarget users who open his emails. It is a highly effective means of inflating an email campaign.
A relatively newer tool called CRM retargeting enables the advertiser to show ads to users with nothing except the email or mailing address. It is the only way to bring direct mail campaign online.
In Kenya, the major national players, including Raila Odinga, Uhuru Kenyatta and Peter Kenneth (among others), have already adopted online advertising’s targeting power.
Targeted and retargeted ads enables a political advertiser to keep his candidate at the top of the mind among base supporters, triggering further engagement such as crusading, evangelizing, donating or volunteering.
Among relatively engaged political followers, following the campaign may probably not feature among foremost priorities. By retargeting, the engagement levels are kept high by keeping the political candidate top of mind.
Targeting is online advertising’s key strengths. Political advertisers who shun the advantages or targeting and retargeting in their campaigns fail to reach their potentials.